Folly lost little but gained a lot (of sand) from hurricane Florence

By Bill Davis | Contributing Writer

Folly Beach could’ve gotten slammed hard by Hurricane Florence right in the middle of its ongoing sand renourishment project last month. Instead, Florence tormented lands to the north and the Feds came through with money to renourish the entire island to its original template.

And to make it even better, they’re paying for it, which means local tax dollars, like the Accommodations Tax, don’t have to be used for it and can be diverted to another project or another use benefitting Folly Beach.

Initially, the U.S. Corps of Engineers had agreed to renourish the east end of Folly going toward the lighthouse. Now, they’ve agreed to move the pipeline and renourish all the way down from the pier to the western end and the county park.

According to city administrator Spencer Wetmore, crews working for the contractor doing the renourishing will cover (literally) as much as 400 feet of beachfront a day. That means oceanfront properties could be affected and impacted for two days at the most.

Mayor Tim Goodwin cautions that this is not a complete win. “We did lose some sand from Florence,” he says, but that the engineers haven’t fully figured out how much.

Additionally, the city did spend $2 million for work on groins that appear, according to the mayor, to have done their jobs fighting off the worst effects of Florence.

More good news: the mayor also reports that the sand that will be used for the additional renourishment, about 300,000 more cubic yards, will also be that “good sand” from the Folly River. That will bring the total project up to close to 1 million cubic yards of sand moved around.

Goodwin says that once the Corps understood that the Stono Inlet sand was not only better-quality sand, but it was also cheaper than pumping offshore sand, and that may have made it easier for the Feds to go ahead with the full renourishment.

Pulling sand from offshore, versus from the river, he says, could be twice as expensive. But to quote the late U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.), “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”

The full project’s new deadline has moved up to the first of November, when the contractors need to pack up and get to their next job.

This means that this year’s A-Tax collections, which are up $30,000 from last year, can be used more freely. Does this mean that Folly doesn’t have to set aside the $325,000 from that amount for beach preservation like it did last year?

No, according to the mayor, who says that money still needs to be put away in a rainy-day fund for future renourishments, as well as beach management projects like repairing walkovers and other spot fixes.

Once again, $125,00 will be set aside from the A-Tax collections for public safety and tourism, with the next biggest chunk, $30,000 going for beach beautification projects.

Members of City Council banded together to preserve some of Folly’s natural beauty at its last council meeting last month, specifically two Live Oaks at the post office.

The post office had filed a request to expand its parking lot to accommodate more cars. But to do so meant the loss of two trees, one with a 34-inch trunk.

Council, which has legal standing over the post office, as it is a federal arm, filed a resolution asking that the two trees be spared.

In doing so, they ended the resolution, which will be sent along to federal authorities, with a famous quote from Dr. Seuss: “The Lorax said it best: We speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. And we’re asking you, sir, at the top of our lungs!”

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