Long, slightly rusted pipes line part of the beachfront in Surfside Beach, spitting out brown water and sand. Four bulldozers push the sand further onshore, refilling spaces that were washed out by past hurricanes.
A 30-foot-tall tripod called the crab moves along the beach into the surf, surveying the amount of sand pumped onto the beach. To the side, people sit in beach chairs, watching the scene.
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The work is part of a $34 million project by the United States Army Corp of Engineers to renourish local beaches to protect people and existing infrastructure against future tropical storms and hurricanes. By December, about 1.4 million cubic yards of sand will be pumped onto Grand Strand beaches.
In Surfside, about 400,000 cubic yards of sand has already been placed — equating to about 40,000 dump trucks.
“It’s important to us to get out here on the beach as quickly as possible,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Palazzini, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Charleston district. “Really, what drives us to bring the sand out to the beach this year is the storms last year.”
On Sept. 11, 2017, the effects of Hurricane Irma were felt across the Grand Strand. While Myrtle Beach did not receive a direct hit, fringes from the storm produced heavy rain and strong winds, causing flooding on the South Strand.
Typically, a project of this size is done every seven to 10 years, but one recently was completed in August 2017 after Hurricane Matthew ripped through the Grand Strand as a Category 1 storm. The project cost about $16 million and spanned from Surfside to Myrtle Beach.
Beach renourishment along the Grand Strand is expected to be complete by Dec. 15, running through the peak of hurricane season. Workers can usually complete up to 500 feet of beach per day.
“Due to all the storms last year, dredges have been in short supply so we were able to get a contract in place, get the dredges out here and our goal is always to be as quick as possible, whether it’s at the start of storm season or even in the middle of storm season,” Palazzini said.
Now, barges floating offshore suck up sand from the ocean floor and pump it to the beach. From there, the bulldozers push the sand around, raising the level of the beach.
Wes Wilson, project manager, said work in Surfside Beach will finish by Monday. Crews will then move into Myrtle Beach and begin work Tuesday. The project will finish in North Myrtle Beach. Palazzini said the project is on time.
“We hope that the sand we’re putting down now, combined with a quiet storm season, that this sand will last for many years to come,” Palazzini said.