HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – Grand Strand beaches may get help with beach renourishment sooner than expected. Congress approved a federal budget package on Friday and money has been set aside to put more sand on the shore.
Congressman Tom Rice says the budget opens up $350 million in federal funds for the state to compete over.
Governor Nikki Haley must apply for the funds and the Army Corp of Engineers has final say over which projects take priortiy.
For coastal communities the extra money means beach renourishment culd get underway as early as next year.
Beaches along the Grand Strand are due for routine renourishment in the next year or so, but because of severe weather over the past year officials agree that our beaches need help sooner.
“The Army Corp of Engineers estimated to place the states beaches back to the condition before the storm would cost about $90 million,” said Rep. Rice.
“I’m excited that congress that realized the importance of that,” said Lee Hewitt, the broker in charge at Garden City Realty Group.
Hewitt says the group manages more than 450 area rental properties and, “without good beaches, without quality beaches our tourists would go elsewhere.”
Rain, wind, and floods have stripped away lots of sand, and Hewitt worries that less space on the shore could hurt tourism.
“It goes back to jobs, and us being able to say we’ve got a good healthy beach. Without that their not going to want to come which then effects jobs,” said Hewitt.
Congressman Rice added, “the Grand Strand is the number one tourism driver in the state of South Carolina. I think 40 -50% of tourism dollars come from the Grand Strand.”
All the more reason Hewitt says erosion needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later, “its vital that the renourishment be done as quickly as possible.”
According to Rep. Rice’s office, there are three pertinent accounts for the beach project. Two of three were increased from the House version (The Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill) in the Omnibus totaling a $64m increase.
· The Flood and Storm Damage Reduction – $136.117m to $185.119m (+$49m)
· Flood Control – $105m to $125m (+$20m)
· Shore Protection – $45m to $40m (-$5m)
Combined, this presents a $350,119m opportunity of unobligated funds for South Carolina to compete for beach renourishment.
Congressman Rice says the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, which passed as part of the budget, also make hundreds of millions of dollars available to be used to rebuild homes and assist farmers in recovery efforts upon request from Governor Haley.