County says demolition and construction will not begin until after summer at least

by Bill Davis | Contributing Writer

Looks like the county is going to wait until after this year’s vacation season before beginning work to replace the Edwin S. Taylor Folly Beach Fishing Pier.

Despite announcements to begin replacement work on the pier as early as this spring, Charleston County Parks & Recreation Commission (CCPRC) spokesperson Sarah Reynolds says the timeline has been delayed as her department does not have the needed federal permits for work to begin.

And Reynolds says she’s not sure when the dismantling and replacing of the pier will start. The county is considering now leaving the pier open the entire summer, depending on a meeting with federal officials this month.

“We are not going to start in the middle of the summer season; I know a lot of people are anxious to hear that,” says Reynolds, adding that the county has set aside $7.5 million for the project.

Folly Beach City Administrator Spencer Wetmore says she has “full confidence in the Charleston County Parks and Recreation’s ability to ensure the safety of the pier.”

The pier, which recently welcomed some more repairs, has long been a center of activity along the oceanfront. At just over 1,000-feet long, it also features a shop, a restaurant, and a 7,500-square-foot covered and two-storied diamond head end that has hosted all sorts of public events.

This time last year, the county was in the “discovery phase” of replacing the pier, having just encapsulated 44 of its 277 posts to protect them from marine wood-boring worms, an expensive and labor-intensive process.

The county said at the time that the lifetime of a pier is usually around 25 years, bolstering considerations to replace the pier entirely versus continuing to repair it. Considerations included building a longer-lasting, but longer to build and more expensive concrete pier.

Later, in spring, the county announced the expedited timeline. But they did so without a key permit from the federal government. Not only did the county not have the permit; the county hadn’t even applied for it.

In fact, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson Sean McBride says the county department didn’t send in its permit application until a month after they announced the original timeline.

According to McBride, a raft of environmental work had to be done before the permit could have been granted, including putting the project out on public notice, and “reviewing it from a regulatory standpoint as it impacts the waters of the United States.”

As of last month, McBride says the Corps is still waiting on a letter from the national marine fisheries as to the impact replacing the bridge, whether it be wooden or made from concrete, would have on endangered species in critical habitats.

McBride says a new pier could affect not only sea turtles, which hatch along the beach’s shores, but also the Right Whale, as they can come up to shore, and the Atlantic sturgeon.

The county claims to have received state permits for a new pier, which could take as much as a year and a half to raze and rebuild. 

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