North Myrtle Beach homeowners, city debate cause of seawall collapse

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Seawalls in North Myrtle Beach collapsed after a dredging company went through Cherry Grove, and homeowners are worried they’ll get stuck with the bill to make repairs.

Property owners along 49th Avenue North in North Myrtle Beach say work completed by the dredging machine caused the seawalls to fall, causing thousands of dollars in damage.

Neighbors say the dredgers stopped work immediately, but it was too late.

“I bought the lot in ‘73 and put the house up in ’77,” recalls homeowner Tom Hutchens.

Hutchens bought the land over 40 years ago. He says for years he’s worried about the city’s dredging project, and after his neighbor’s property was partially destroyed, his fears may be justified.

“This one was deep, deeper all the way up to the post there, but this one here is, as you see it, just collapsed and everything,” explains Hutchens as he walks through the damaged portion of the yard where the posts have collapsed.

Hutchens says when the dredgers came down his avenue, some of the seawalls and lots went down with it.

“It’s all got to be redone, and it took down some of the other side too over there. They’re going to have to replace all of it,” predicts Hutchens.

Phil Murray also owns a vacation home on 49th Ave. North. While he lives out of state, he spoke with News13 in a Facetime interview and explained his concern that his property will be next. He says many people on the canal can’t afford to pay for the damages.

“When you’re talking a $20,000 wall, you could put people into bankruptcy and what you’re going to do is, you’re going to put so many people into bankruptcy on these homes that it’s possible that you’re going to have some situations with some abandon houses,” worries Murray.

Pat Dowling, Spokesperson for the City of North Myrtle Beach, used maps of the dredging to illustrate that the dredging blade did not hit the seawall. The collapse was caused by a mistake made years ago, he explains.

“This is called Canal K and Canal 1,” says Dowling referencing the map. “It comes down and forms a ‘T’. The two properties where the bulkheads failed are here and here.”

Dowling says the GIS cutter path for the blade used for dredging in the canals shows the blade did not hit the sea wall.

“The best we can do is go by the science they give us, and the science shows that they did not make contact with either bulkhead,” describes Dowling.

Dowling says they did do an investigation and the homes where the seawall failed were built too far out and the posts used to hold them up were not buried deep enough.

“The failure of the walls is not at the fault of the dredging company nor the city,” states Dowling. “It’s just a natural situation that occurred with what may be walls that were not built as they were supposed to have been built.”

In Dowling’s scenario, the homeowner’s are responsible for any costs associated with damage repairs.

“I mean, we’re not out to buffalo people,” says Dowling. “If we’ve caused a problem, we’ll take care of it. If we haven’t caused a problem, we’re not going to take care of it. It’s up to the homeowner.”

Dowling says the same builder built the seawalls for the two that collapsed near 49th Ave. North. He adds it’s important to note the dredgers messed up a few docks and they’ve been more than willing to help replace them.

Dowling says in this case, it’s neither the city nor the dredger’s fault.