Beach erosion and storm surges are constant threats along the Atlantic coast. The Lowcountry has experienced coastal storm flooding problems with regularity in the last 100 years. Folly Beach is no exception. Accordingly, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reevaluating what can be done to provide a more resilient coastal flood risk management solution through the Folly Beach Feasibility Study.
The study is revaluating the current 50-year project on Folly Beach, which has been impacted by the increased frequency of recent major storm events. The study will determine if a reformulated 50-year project is warranted for construction before the end of the current project, which ends in 2043. Should a new project be recommended by the Corps and authorized by Congress, it would supersede the existing project.
“This study and construction could preserve the longevity of the beach and the town,” said local resident Eric Warren at a public meeting. “It will help to protect the residents, the Charleston community, and the revenue from tourism in Folly Beach.”
Normally, in the past (and in the future), a Folly Beach study would have been performed by the Charleston District. However, because the Charleston District received several studies in the 2018 emergency supplemental funding after Hurricane Irma, the Wilmington District volunteered to help since, at that time, they had no studies in the North Carolina area. This was a good fit since the Wilmington District is a coastal district in the South Atlantic Division with proximity to the Charleston team and its historical knowledge of Folly Beach.
This 100% federally-funded study is to be completed within three years and evaluate possible actions intended to provide long-term risk reduction from coastal storms on Folly Beach. This study is evaluating alternatives for structural measures while providing a holistic approach to beach erosion storm surge based on engineering, economic, and environmental analysis. The Corps is also factoring in potential sea level rise over the next 50 years and ensuring that there is enough beach-quality sand available to provide renourishment over that same time period.
The Wilmington District released the Draft Feasibility Study in mid-August. The draft report recommends continued beach nourishment, which will provide protection until approximately 2074. The Corps is looking for comments from the public for 30 days after release of the draft report and will host a virtual public workshop with the Town of Folly Beach. The public can access the documents and get the information for the workshop at www.sac.usace.army.mil.
After the public comment period, the Wilmington District will review and address all comments in preparation for a final report in 2021. The final report will need approval from the Chief of Engineers before it can be sent to Congress for possible authorization and appropriation.
Folly Beach has a distinctive 15% non-federal construction cost share with the federal government due to the impact the federally-constructed jetties have on Folly Beach. Back in the late-1800’s, the Corps built jetties on both sides of the Charleston Harbor Entrance Channel to facilitate maintenance of channel depth and allow ships to come into port with ease. The jetties still serve that purpose and exponentially reduce yearly dredging costs in the harbor, but they also have an impact on the natural drift of sand down the coast to Folly Beach. Pursuing a more resilient coastal storm risk management project will provide economic benefits at the national, state, and local levels.
This project is a perfect example of how Corps districts work together to accomplish the overall mission and should serve as a benchmark for future studies.