Garden City Beach and Huntington Beach State Park are in line to get hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of sand as two concurrent dredging projects in Murrells Inlet get under way in early November.
Orion Marine Construction has a $6.3 million Army Corps of Engineers contract to dredge the federal waters from the southern tip of Garden City to roughly 1336 S. Waccamaw Drive in Garden City, and Georgetown County and private partners will pay for dredging overseen by GEL Engineering on the opposite side of the federal channel that will include the DNR dock, four channels into the marsh, two private marinas and the Marshwalk restaurants berthing areas. The marinas and the restaurant owners are paying for their share of the project.
The area north of of 1336 S. Waccamaw to roughly Myrtle Beach State Park is under a separate project.
The Murrells Inlet projects mark the first time in more than a decade that the area around the marsh has been dredged. Federal money will pay for the corps’ project while much of the county’s financing comes from the penny sales tax approved by voters in 2014. Private beneficiaries will pay for dredging at Marine Colony Boat Club, Marlin Quay Marina and the restaurants.
Sel Hemingway, Georgetown County administrator, said that almost as soon as the 2002 dredging project was completed, the county started looking ahead to repeating the process.
“Throughout the years, the federal budgets have not allowed for funding for the Corps to do work that they were authorized to do,” Hemingway said. “The citizens of Georgetown County thought highly enough that they voted a sales tax to provide for the funding for this project.”
“This beach held up for about 15 years, and it’s overdue for a navigation project, for dredging,” said Wes Wilson, project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers. He added that the timing was fortunate because of the additional erosion caused by Hurricane Matthew.
The Corps of Engineers project includes the federal channel and the deposition basin in Murrells Inlet, and replacing that material in Garden City Beach and Huntington Beach State Park, Wilson told about 40 people gathered Monday for an informational meeting on the projects at the Murrells Inlet Community Center.
While the sand from the federal project will be deposited on the eroding beach areas, the material from the county’s project will be trucked away.
Lauding the project on behalf of the restaurants along the Marshwalk, Al Hitchcock, an owner of Drunken Jacks, said that the project will allow people to get to the restaurants by water, “even when it’s not high tide,” and to enjoy the charters from the restaurant docks.
Not everyone was enthusiastic about the project though.
Dan Morgan, who has two commercial oyster leases, is worried that the sand will negatively impact his oysters.
“They’re taking material that already is closed to shellfish harvesting and putting it next to my lease area,” he said. “Oysters grow in pluff mud. The sand could smother them.”
He said he also was concerned that spill from a low jetty would spill over the rock jetties at Huntington Beach State Park would kill his oysters.
Gary Weinreich,. a Murrells Inlet resident, asked about the noise, especially about the de-watering near a residential area of Murrells Inlet, especially because the project will be ongoing 24 hours a day, except Sunday morning. He was assured that the trucking would end by 11 p.m.
The project is scheduled to be completed by April 1.