SULLIVAN’S ISLAND, S.C. (WCBD)- Sand dunes across the Lowcountry kept people safe from Hurricane Ian, but now they are going to need some repairs after the storm eroded sand from the shores.
“All things considered the town made out very very well. We can’t find anywhere on Sullivan’s Island where the ocean penetrated behind that primary dune,” said Andy Benke, the Town Administrator for Sullivan’s Island.
The island had two places where the storm eroded a significant amount of sand. At Station 22, rainwater that collected behind the first wall of dunes found its way back out to the ocean through a low lying part of the dunes.
The ocean waves smacking up against dunes as tall as 12 feet were eroded at Station 28. The sand that remains makes some of the larger dunes look like a cliff. But, Benke says that’s what they’re supposed to do.
“There are dunes and vegetation that provide relief and change of elevation so that when there is a wave event it slows the wave down quite a bit” said Benke. “The town has this wide track of land between the mean high water mark and the private property line. That’s an extra added protection that we have.”
On Folly Beach, Mayor Tim Goodwin is also dealing with issues from beach erosion.
“We have noticed dune erosion just from Ian,” said Mayor Goodwin. “We know that we need to do some work on the beach. We’ve already started planning on what we can do as a city.’
Unlike Sullivan’s Island, Folly Beach is a federal partner with the Army Corps of Engineers. That means that the city can receive federal funding to help repair their sand dunes. Mayor Goodwin is awaiting the engineers’ report to decide what needs to be done.
“The Army Corps of Engineers has been here to do a survey and we’re waiting on their data to be processed,” said Mayor Goodwin.
“Right now the Myrtle Beach, Pawleys Island and Folly Beach coastlines experienced significant erosion,” said Wes Wilson, a Project Manager for the Army Corps of Engineers.
That process might not be finished until the beginning of 2023 according to the Army Corps of Engineers.
“We’re going to collect that survey information. We’re going to analyze the date and estimate costs and write a report that will be used to see if that project qualifies for emergency rehabilitation,” said Wilson. “Two main factors to consider during the process are the significance of the event and the significance of the damages of the event.”
After that, Congress has to decide whether to give supplemental funds to the Army Corps of Engineers to undertake the repairs.
Officials and engineers want people to remember that the dunes are here to protect and damage to them is much better than damage to people, buildings or roads.
“Sand dunes disappear because we build sand dunes and we work hard to keep sand dunes on the beach because that’s the first line of defense for the beach,” said Mayor Goodwin.