ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCBD) – Leaders at the South Carolina Beach advocates annual meeting say it’s important they find ways to preserve beaches because they have a big environmental and financial impact on the state.

Proponents of beach preservation gathered Monday for the 9th annual South Carolina Beach Advocates Association conference.

“It started about 10 years ago,” Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin said, “and it’s a voice of mayors and administrators up and down the coast from North Carolina to Georgia. The voice of beach towns and communities for South Carolina.”

Goodwin chairs the organization. Leaders say it’s imperative they discuss beach renourishment because healthy beaches provide several benefits to the Palmetto State.

“Preservation of the beaches is one of our biggest tourism assets in South Carolina,” Goodwin said. “Tourism, depending on who you talk to, is either the number one or the number two money-making processes in South Carolina.”

“Putting that sand on the beach,” Lt. Col. Andrew Johannes, 89th Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said, “yes there is a recreation component to it, but that sand also provides that protection that mitigates the damages when you do have these storm events.”

One beach advocate who’s community recently experienced storm damage firsthand is Pawleys Island Mayor Brian Henry.

“We had a direct hit from Hurricane Ian,” Henry said.

The category one storm caused the town’s pier to collapse. Now, Henry says he’s at the conference advocating to preserve the town’s beaches to reduce the risk of a similar event occurring in the future.

“We had breaches in our dunes and when that happens,” Henry said, “a lot of sand washes from the beaches on our roadways. Also, we lost a fair amount of beach and dunes. We’re still fine, but we need to look forward to make we have the revenue and the funds to fix those.”

Representative Nancy Mace delivered a keynote address at the conference Monday afternoon, and Governor Henry McMaster will deliver his keynote address on Wednesday.