Students from College of Charleston’s Water Use Law class took a rare field trip to Folly Beach to learn about the Folly Beach Shore Protection Project and its impacts to residents and the surrounding area. This elective class is part of the urban studies department, which focuses on understanding problems and opportunities of the city and its environment through urbanization.
The class of seven first met at Folly Beach City Hall for a discussion with the project’s managers David Warren and Wes Wilson. Here, they learned about the background of the project and areas that were being studied, as well as about some of the complications that have been faced, since that is the nature of their course. One of the most intriguing things that the students learned about was how the District was preparing for sea turtle nesting season, including determining what type of sand to use. For example, if the sand that is pumped onto the beach is too dark, the turtle’s nest might get too warm, which would produce a higher percentage of female hatchlings.
“I am thoroughly impressed with the level of care that has been taken to ensure that no sea turtles are harmed,” said Anthony Lato, a junior in the class. “The fact that the different colors of sand affect the sex of the turtle, I did not know that, and the fact that it is known and that is the type of sand they are looking for shows that the turtles are important.”
After the discussion in city hall, the group went to the project site to watch the construction in action. Even through the fog that was rolling in, the students were able to see how big the site was and could see all the moving pieces. Warren and Wilson explained that the sand and water mixture is pumped onto the beach through a series of pipes from a dredge at a borrow area three miles offshore. Heavy equipment then carves tracks in the sand for the water to return to the ocean, leaving the sand behind. The equipment then shapes the sand that is left behind to build the beach up to its new level, therefore protecting the infrastructure on Folly Beach. The students seemed to absorb as much knowledge as the beach absorbed sand.
“I think that the magnitude of the project is interesting and that it’s very efficient,” said Brett Morgenstern, a junior in the class. “The environmental aspect and concern that they have is really cool.”
“Something I found interesting about this was how much really goes into the project,” added Lato. “I didn’t realize that it was this big of a deal with the homeowners and the taxpayers and how many different entities were involved in it. This was my first college field trip and it was beyond all of my expectations.”
But the students won’t get out of this field trip without an assignment.
“I’ll be asking them to write a summary of the experience, highlighting points that they thought were most interesting,” said Melinda Lucka, the Water Use Law professor. “I want to hear their commentary on the process and renourishment in general. We’re trying to promote the urban studies department at the college and having opportunities like this is a big draw.”