High tides and winds erode Hilton Head beaches

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High tides and winds erode Hilton Head beaches

By TOM BARTON
tbarton@islandpacket.com
Published Tuesday, November 1, 2011   |  475 Words  |  

High astronomical tides and strong winds northeastly winds created huge waves in October that continued to erode the beach at Tower Beach in Sea Pines and elsewhere on Hilton Head Island.

The island saw its highest tide of the year, above 9 feet Thursday, said Scott Liggett, town director of public projects and facilities.

"We saw noticeable changes at South Beach (in Sea Pines) and Palmetto Dunes, where there was moderate to minor erosion," Liggett said.

While the loss of vegetation and sand may alarm some, there also are times when sand accumulates. That's the seasonal nature of being a barrier island, Liggett said.

"It's seasonal dynamics of the island's beaches -- the highest tides of the year, coupled with a steady on-shore wind, encroach upon a well established vegetated dune," he said.

What's been lost at the beach, however, pales in comparison to what's been gained as a result of renourishment projects, Liggett said.

In another area -- the island's heel -- work to rebuild the beach finally is ready to move forward after months of permitting delays.

Liggett told Town Council Tuesday Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company is prepared to begin pumping about a million cubic yards of sand onto a mile-long stretch of beach at Port Royal Plantation at the end of the month. The company had told town officials the work could begin Nov. 9, but weather will delay moving machinery to Hilton Head from farther up the coast, Liggett said.

Fortunately, the delay is expected to push completion back by only one day, he said.

"They plan to bring in a booster pump to speed production at no expense to the town," Liggett told council.

A groin also will be built to prevent sand from washing away.

Crews are supposed to complete placing sand on the beach by Feb. 15, but will probably finish before that, Liggett said.

Groin construction is expected to be finished by May 1.

Work was to begin in January, but delays in obtaining a state permit postponed it.

The work is needed to combat a decade of erosion that has claimed about 100 feet of beachfront per year. Left unchecked, oceanfront property could be threatened, town officials say.

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