State of the Beach/State Reports/SC/Beach Fill

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South Carolina Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access98
Water Quality54
Beach Erosion8-
Erosion Response-6
Beach Fill6-
Shoreline Structures7 5
Beach Ecology4-
Surfing Areas25
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}


State, Territory, and Commonwealth Beach Nourishment Programs, A National Overview (NOAA, March 2000) provides the following information:

"The state has some beach nourishment policies.

Policy Citation and Description

Coastal Management Act. S.C. Code Regs. §48-39-10 to 48-39-360. This statute implements a direct permit program for beachfront development including any land disturbing activities within a narrow band of four "critical areas" including "the beach/dune system." Also it covers erosion control devices and all beach nourishment projects. Rule making authority for permitting in beach and dune critical areas includes definitions, erosion control policies and sand dune management policies.

Beachfront Management Act. S.C. Code Regs. §48-39-320B. In 1992, South Carolina adopted a state beachfront management plan which includes:

1) required studies of sand sources, sand transport
2) guidelines on beach nourishment
3) requirements on placement of beach quality sand on down drift beaches
4) Post Disaster Redevelopment Plans also required: 15 of 18 coastal communities have state approved plans.

Beachfront Management Act. S.C. Code Regs. §48-39-320B. Local Beachfront Management Plans are required to be adopted by July 1, 1992 based on State guidelines and approval/certification in order to be eligible to participate in state bonding programs for beach nourishment or other beach funding programs.

Coastal Management Regulations. S.C. Reg. 30-13(N)(2). Sand bags, sand scraping, and minor beach nourishment are allowable under "emergency orders" and within established guidelines.

Coastal Management Regulations. S.C. Reg. 30-11(B)(6) and 30-13(L)(3)(b). Places restrictions on beach nourishment during turtle nesting season.

Related Policies

Dredge and Fill Regulations

S.C. Code Regs. §48-39-130. Critical areas permits are required for dredge and fill activities that take place in critical areas (tidelands, coastal waters, and the beach/dune system). Coastal Management Regulations. S.C. Reg. 30-12G. Contains specific project regulatory standards for dredging and filling.

Sand Scraping/Dune Reshaping Regulations

Coastal Management Regulations. S.C. Reg. 30-13. Emergency order with guidelines allows sand scraping and placement of sand bags in front of threatened structures. No formal permit is required.

Dune Creation/Restoration Regulations

Coastal Management Regulations. S.C. Reg. 30-13(L). Allowed with permit.

Public Access Regulations

Local beachfront management plans are required to develop guidelines that accomplish a beach access program to ensure full and complete access to the beach.

Beach Nourishment Funding Program

While the state provides funding for beach nourishment projects, there is no dedicated state funding program.

Beachfront Management Act. S.C. Code Regs. §48-39-320B. The state passed a $10 million Beach Restoration Fund in 1988. Subsequently, funds have been allocated as needed to provide state match required for beach nourishment projects.

Amount of State Funding

South Carolina spends and average of $3 million annually on nourishment.

Cost Share Requirements

There is no set policy. The local match requirement varies."

According to the SCDHEC-OCRM website the state promotes soft solutions, such as re-fill, as an alternative to shoreline armoring along erosional beaches.

NOAA's 2008 evaluation of South Carolina's Coastal Management Program noted:

"Tourists as well as residents generate significant monies and are a major factor in the state’s economy because of the state’s beaches. Thus, maintenance of healthy beaches is a critical issue. One of the most significant concerns facing the state and local governments as they deal with emergency beach renourishment following storms and long-term, cyclical, planned beach maintenance is the high cost involved and the need for state funding to provide cost sharing for federal beach renourishment funding. The South Carolina General Assembly recognized this need and established the State Beach Renourishment Trust Fund in 2000. However, the General Assembly has never appropriated funds to capitalize the Trust Fund. Meanwhile, based on annual beach monitoring conducted by the SCCMP, the number of beach areas characterized as being healthy based upon sand volume and width has declined. The Council on Coastal Futures recognized this as a serious issue and recommended that the state capitalize and adequately fund the State Beach Renourishment Trust Fund. The SCCMP is in agreement with this recommendation, but it is not in a position to address it alone. The NOAA OCRM encourages the SCCMP to play a leadership role in working with the South Carolina Governor’s Office, the General Assembly, and coastal local governments to capitalize and fund the state’s Beach Renourishment Trust Fund. There could be a leadership role for a Shoreline Change Initiative ‘blue ribbon’ panel or the existing advisory committee to assume on this issue as well."


As of early 2009, South Carolina had completed 21 beach fill projects in the previous 18 years; 96 miles of beach filled at a total cost of about $194 million.

Slightly different numbers are contained in a Powerpoint presentation SC Coastal Information Network Workshop - October 28, 2009 Preliminary Findings of the SC Shoreline Change Advisory Committee. A slide from that presentation states that there had been 25 beach fill projects since 1985 at a total cost of about $225 million.

According to an April 11, 2016 article by Bo Peterson in The Post and Courier:

"The expense of keeping a beach is skyrocketing. About a third of Isle of Palms’ 5-mile beach was renourished in 2008 from beaching sandbars, at a cost of $10 million. The new work is the latest of costly touch-up jobs that have been done since in the same stretch. Folly’s cost climbed 200 percent since the 1990s to $30 million for the 2014 work from sand offshore. There are no estimates yet how much a new round would cost."

According to the various South Carolina State of the Beaches reports, beach fill projects completed during 1999 included a 250,000 cubic yard sand scraping project at Pawleys Island. A renourishment project in Sea Pines Plantation on the southern end of Hilton Head Island placed 2.5 million cubic yards of sand on the Hilton Head shoreline between May and November 1997. A renourishment project was constructed at Daufuskie Island in December 1998, adding 1.4 million cubic yards of sand.

There were no major renourishment projects during the years 2000 through 2004.

The following discussion is from South Carolina's 2008 State of the Beaches report.

"Several beach renourishment projects have been conducted in South Carolina in recent years. In response to the extensive erosion of the 2004 hurricane season a major beach renourishment project was sponsored by the Army Corps of Engineers at Folly Beach during the summer and fall of 2005, using a combination of federal and municipal funding. In addition, $4.75 million dollars in state renourishment funding was allocated to Edisto Beach State Park and the Town of Edisto Beach for a beach renourishment project in 2006. Other renourishment projects during 2006 include a privately funded project at DeBordieu Beach, a state-funded renourishment project at Hunting Island State Park, and a locally funded project at the Town of Hilton Head Island that started in September 2006 and ended in March 2007. Finally, a smaller renourishment project designed to replace sand lost during the 2005 hurricane season was constructed at portions of Folly Beach during 2007."

The 2009 State of the Beaches Report contained the following discussion:

"Two renourishment projects were conducted in South Carolina in 2008. The Isle of Palms project placed 885,000 cubic yards of sand dredged from an offshore sand source along 2.6 miles of beach, while the Grand Strand project, constructed in three phases, placed 2.9 million cubic yards of sand dredged from an offshore source along 26 miles of shoreline in North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, and Garden City."

An WMBF news report in July 2015 stated:

Coastal Carolina University researchers calculate about 200,000 cubic yards of sand were lost when Tropical Storm Ana hit in North Myrtle Beach. Most of the sand was lost in Cherry Grove. Beach renourishment projects involve construction, bringing in sand to replenish the shoreline. The federal projects are done every 10 years for the entire Grand Strand region. With the tide sweeping in and out and nature taking its course, beachfront disappears and erodes into the ocean, especially at high tide. You're hard pressed to find a spot on the sand that doesn't get overtaken by waves. As you can imagine, this is a problem if you're trying to go to the beach. The last renourishment was in 2008, so there are a few more years until the next project starts. In the meantime, North Myrtle Beach has had to go so far as bulldozing from one place to another to move sand around, which is very costly and entirely at the expense of the local government, but also necessary considering the alternative.

In January 2017 a news report from South Carolina Public Radio discussed a current beach fill project at Edisto Beach. This $18 million project was the first one done at Edisto in 10 years. The article also referenced the database of beach fill projects maintained by the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University. Data collected by the Developed Shorelines Program shows the 78 projects on beaches in South Carolina since the 1950s have cost hundreds of millions dollars.

Coastal Carolina University's beach nourishment website has the following description of beach nourishment projects:

"A beach nourishment project for the Grand Strand was initiated in November 2007 and was completed in 2009 adding approximately 3 million yd³ (15-25 yd³/ft) to the beaches of North Myrtle, Myrtle, Surfside, and Garden City. Garden City/Surfside beach received 750,000 yd3 along a 7.7 mile stretch of beach. A 9 mile stretch of Myrtle Beach received 1.25 million yd3 and an 86 mil stretch of North Myrtle Beach was nourished with 750,000 yd3. In addition to the sand placement, North Myrtle Beach, Garden City and Surfside all received new sand fencing and grassing of dunes to promote the natural development of protective dunes in front of coastal structures."

The website's papers and presentations section includes:

The Edisto Island and Hunting Island beach fill projects were completed just prior to summer 2006 at a combined cost of $16.3 million. Following completion of the project at Hunting Island, the beach width was over 100 feet at high tide, as opposed to essentially no beach at high tide a year earlier. An interesting aspect of this project was the Coastal Research Amphibious Buggy (CRAB) that was being used to survey depths and gradients offshore as sand was being pumped onto the beach.

In August 2006, volunteers finished planting 20,000 sea oats on three sites at Hunting Island State Park. The plants are part of an ongoing beach conservation project to protect beach sites which were nourished in May and June 2006 with 750,000 cubic yards of new sand. North Beach, South Beach and the beach in front of the campgrounds are being protected from erosion, which occurs at a rate of between 14 and 15 feet a year. It has been estimated that number could be reduced to between 8 and 9 feet a year with a combination of several projects at the sites, including the sea oats. The plant's 9-foot root system helps reduce erosion by stabilizing sand. And the plant, which stands about 6 feet tall when fully grown, also creates dunes by catching sand that is picked up by the wind.

An article by Ben Pillow in the Beaufort Gazette on January 22, 2008 discussed a continuing dispute over a plan to add 400,000 cubic yards of sand to the coast at Hunting Island State Park over five years. State officials have characterized the work as a short-term stabilization effort that would focus first on the area near Cabin Road on Hunting Island's far south end, which has suffered heavy erosion despite (or perhaps because of) an $8.3 million renourishment and groin-installation project completed in March 2007. The main issue for the current project is where to get the sand. Initially, the sand was to come from Hunting Island's north spit adjacent to Johnson Creek Inlet and the south spit near Fripp Inlet. Concerns about a piping plover roosting habitat and many comments from Harbor Island residents against taking sand from the north spit, however, prompted park officials to remove the northern borrow site from the project. But there is also concern about taking all the sand from the south spit, since that may impact beaches, wetlands and habitat along the Fripp Inlet shoreline and disrupt sand transport to Fripp Island. Taking the sand from an inland source would avoid these problems but would greatly increase the cost of the project. UPDATE: Wind and waves produced by Tropical Storm Fay in August 2008 forced a road closure and damaged at least three structures, but parks officials said money was not available to add sand to the beach to prevent further damage. South Carolina's 2009 State of the Beaches Report provides a more detailed description of conditions on Hunting Island in 2008.

Hurricane Matthew struck South Carolina in October 2016 and caused major erosion at Hunting Island State Park and other coastal areas. This moved state park officials to almost double the scope of a beach restoration project planned before the storm. By mid-2017, the project scope envisioned pumping up to 1.2 million cubic yards of sand onto Hunting Island’s shoreline and building up to four new groins.

An article by Bo Petersen in the Charleston Post and Courier on December 19, 2010 Renourishment hasn't held up discusses increased erosion rates and therefore the need to do more frequent beach fill projects at Folly Beach, Wild Dunes Resort on Isle of Palms, and at Edisto Beach. In 2012 Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission officials were discussing and planning a $3 million project at Folly Beach County Park to dredge sand from the Folly River and use it to re-nourish areas of the beach which were severely eroded by Hurricane Irene in August 2011. As part of the project, the Commission also wants to erect a groin 200 feet out to sea to partly dam the flow of sand in the current along the shore. The intent of the groin would be to rebuild some beach and protect sand renourishment. The Coastal Conservation League is opposing a permit to let the Commission build the groin. A project manager for the league said if the permit is granted, the league will appeal and take the case to court, if needed. As of February 2013, the league and the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission were still negotiating over the fate of the project. The project was completed in mid-2013, but all did not go as planned. For more on that, see Chris Dixon's article on The Post and Courier. Army Corps of Engineers info on the project. Another problem with this project was the rocks (actually "cemented sand") that were mixed in with the sand dredged from the sea floor. More on this.

In January 2015 it was announced that construction was underway on nearly 5 miles of fencing designed to capture wind-blown sand and help build new dunes on Folly Beach. The work is the final phase of the $30 million renourishment project that pumped 1.5 million cubic yards of offshore sand onto the beach. The sand-trapping system includes about 800 V-shaped structures made of wooden slats anchored by three posts. The open end of the “V” faces the beach. The design has proven very effective at growing a sand dune, officials said, and new dunes up to 2 feet tall can be seen in about a month. The west end of the island where the Charleston County park is located is an example of where fencing has built new dunes. More than 100,000 sea oats and bitter panicum will be planted behind the fencing to help stabilize dune growth. The sand catchers are built just in front of the existing dune line. Some 26,000 linear feet of sand fences will be constructed from 10th Street East to the island’s west end at the county park. Completion is expected by the end of March 2015. The same system was used in 2005 when Folly was last renourished.

The following table provides a list of re-fill projects completed during the period 1991 through 2000, with the State's share of the total project cost, as well as State money that had been allocated for a future project at Hunting Island.

Area Year State's Cost Completed
Hunting Island State Park 1991 $2,900,000 Y
Folly Beach 1993 $3,500,000 Y
Edisto Beach 1995 $1,000,000 Y
Hilton Head Island 1997 $ 0 Y
Daufuskie Island 1998 $ 0 Y
Folly Beach County Park 1998 $100,000 Y
Sullivans Island 1998 $230,000 Y
Grand Strand 1998 $10,000,000 Y
Debidue Beach 1998 $0 Y
Pawleys Island 1999 $1,300,000 Y
Edisto State Beach Park 1999 $250,000 Y
Sea Pines - Hilton Head Island 1999 $0 Y
Hunting Island 1999 $2,500,000 N
Hunting Island 2000 $1,700,000 N
Shore Drive, Horry County 2000 $1,000,000 Y
South Garden City 2000 $1,000,000 N

Total state expenditures for 1991-2000 were $25,480,000, an average of $2,548,000 per year spent on beach re-fill. No state money was allocated for beach re-fill during the 2001-2002 fiscal year, or during the 2002-2003 fiscal year.[1]

As indicated in the above table, a large-scale beach fill project was conducted at Folly Beach in 1993 at a cost of $11.8 million ($3.5 million local share). The project included placement of over 2.8 million cubic yards of sand over 28,200 linear feet (5.34 miles) of beach and rehabilitation of nine groins. Based on historic erosion rates, periodic re-fill was estimated to occur every eight years. Since this project performed better than estimated (despite an extraordinary 2004 hurricane season), the next re-fill was not necessary until June 2005. This project consisted of about two million cubic yards of sand dredged from about two miles offshore and placed on Folly Beach at a cost of $12.5 million. Since a study in 1988 showed that the Charleston Harbor Jetties contributed 57% of the historical erosion at Folly Beach, the normal 65%/35% cost share split between the federal government and the local sponsor was adjusted to 85%/15%. The beach fill project was completed in November 2005. It was the only beach fill project in South Carolina in 2005. Although this beach fill project went relatively well, the next major beach fill at Folly (see discussion prior to the table above) experienced major problems.

Since the 2005 beach fill project was conducted during turtle nesting season, the project included turtle patrols conducted by the volunteer Folly Beach Turtle Watch. At least 35 nests were relocated during the project and there were no reports of injured turtles. This project also included a contract for installation of fencing and the planting of dune grass, scheduled to be completed in Spring 2006. More information on this and other beach fill projects in South Carolina is available at the website of the Charleston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This website also contains a good general discussion of beach fill, including an animation of the typical beach fill process.

Back in the 1950s, reports the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium in its Coastal Heritage newsletter, the town of Edisto Beach (pop. 641) completed an extensive program of beach fill and groin construction to hold the shoreline in place. Dozens of homes built there mushroomed in value during the boom times.

Now, though, sections of this shoreline have eroded as much as 40 feet in a single year. One cottage underwent severe damage during a recent northeaster. Pilings supporting houses along an 8-block stretch are regularly flooded at high tide. Consequently, residents and local officials are backing a new fill effort that would cost $6 million. $4 million of this would come not from local sources, but from the state. Proponents seek to protect real estate values and note that beach tourism and coastal growth have done much to fuel the state's economy. Skeptics warn that such efforts are often futile and that the best way to preserve beaches is to let them migrate naturally.

The Edisto Beach scenario applies as well to many volatile stretches of the Carolinas coastline. At Charleston, NOAA reports, the sea level continues its rise—10 inches in the last 80 years. With land subsiding in some places as well, the situation promises only to get worse. And while state funds for fill are becoming harder to get, the federal government is also increasingly unwilling to help local communities maintain previously replenished beaches. South Carolina's projects of this type have received virtually no federal funding in recent federal budgets.

Hilton Head Island's latest large beach fill project began in September 2006. The town budgeted $16 million for the project. The previous two fill projects, in 1990 and 1997, cost about $9 million each. The project is part of the town's regular renourishment of about six miles of beach. It originally was scheduled to take place somewhere between September 2005 and April 2006, but the busy 2004 hurricane season increased the demand for beach-fill services, which would have caused a dramatic increase in costs to Hilton Head, according to town officials. The $16 million project is paid for almost exclusively by tourists. The money comes from a 2 percent tax charged to overnight lodging, known as the beach preservation fee. The main part of the work was scheduled to stretch from the Westin Resort to Alder Lane in South Forest Beach, with work also being done in portions near Fish Haul Creek and in South Forest Beach. The project was completed in early February 2007.

Beaches along the Atlantic shorefront, Port Royal Sound and the South Beach area are being targeted for the next project. Meanwhile, the town still is considering adding a separate section of beach to the project. Residents of The Spa at Port Royal, a north-island condominium complex on Port Royal Sound, want the beachfront in front of their property nourished. But widening the 4,000-foot stretch of beach during the off-season could disturb the piping plover, an endangered water bird that winters in the area. At the request of state environmental regulators, the town is taking an environmental habitat inventory of the area.

On December 21, 2010 The Island Packet reported on the status of 1 million cubic yard project planned for a mile-long stretch of beach at Port Royal Plantation. The project also includes construction of a groin to attempt to retain the sand along the "heel" of the island. The project, which has received $1 million in funding from the state, was originally set to begin in January 2011 but the start has now been pushed back due to permitting delays. The Island Packet again reported on this project when it finally began in December 2011. The article stated:

"This week, workers will begin pumping about 1 million cubic yards of sand from offshore onto a one-mile stretch between the Westin Resort and the Beach House in Port Royal Plantation, town public projects and facilities director Scott Liggett said. The work aims to combat a decade of erosion that has claimed about 80 to 100 feet of beachfront a year. Left unchecked, the erosion could threaten oceanfront property, town officials said. But keeping the shoreline in good shape isn't easy. The town also will build a 700-foot-long wall made of granite boulders to stabilize the eroding beachfront. After bulldozers finish pushing sand into the right spots for the first 1,000-foot section of beach, crews will start hauling 12,000 tons of boulders for the groin. The $1.2 million structure will trap sand that normally would be lost to coastal drift, but it will also allow some sand to move over its top so as not to starve other areas of the beach, Liggett said. "It doesn't mean the sand we place won't move -- it certainly will -- but we hope the groin will provide us a degree of stability and lower the loss rate we would otherwise see," he said."

Wild Dunes/Isle of Palms/Kiawah Island/Ocean Golf Course
An interesting controversy arose in early 2006 regarding a plan by the town of Kiawah Island to rebuild dunes used to protect the Ocean Golf Course's 18th hole. Piping plovers forage along a sand spit that would be the source of sand for the dune-rebuilding project. The Army Corps of Engineers issued a "cease and desist" order for the golf course to stop piling sand on the beach. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service then began preparing a "biological opinion" on the project in preparation for considering whether to allow permits.

A compromise was announced in March 2006 which allowed dune rebuilding to protect the 18th and 16th holes of the golf course and the driving range but reduced by half the amount of sand taken from the sand spit which is the piping plover's habitat.

Additional information regarding beach fill plans in this area were mentioned in an article by Jill Coley in the Charleston Post and Courier on February 8, 2007. Following are edited excerpts from that article:

"Property owners in the area proposed a plan to harvest 180,000 cubic yards of sand from the Cedar Creek spit, also known as the Morgan Creek spit, and truck it along the shore to the affected beach. Owners from Ocean Club, Seascape, Port O'Call, Tidewater, Summer House and Shipwatch villas, and two homes on Summer Dunes Lane, joined to create Isle of Palms North Beach Owners, a limited liability company, to seek a permit for a nourishment project. Property owners will pay for the project, which could cost more than $1 million, depending on dredging market prices.

While the Wild Dunes Resort has not joined the property owners' company because of its corporate structure, a representative of Wild Dunes has stated that they would pay its share to protect the 18th green of The Links golf course. The Ocean Point neighborhood of Wild Dunes stands behind the 18th green, which buffers homes from the ocean. Ocean Point stretches between the spit, where the sand will be harvested, and the heavily eroded area, where the sand will be transported. Accretion often follows periods of erosion on the northern tip of the island. The project described in the permit is a stop-gap measure. Long-term solutions are required, both sides agree. Comments from the public will be considered before DHEC issues a permit on the project. A water quality certification, which should take a few months, also must be issued before the permit is granted."

The situation in this area got more complicated in May 2007 when hundreds of 5-gallon sandbags, installed three years prior as an "emergency stopgap effort" at the Wild Dunes Resort, drifted into the ocean and into adjacent estuaries. Sections of the resort are now primarily protected by walls of much larger sandbags. OCRM cited property owners with violating an enforcement order to remove the bags. Meanwhile, concern was expressed about the proposed borrow area for the beach fill project. Rob Young of Western Carolina University pointed to vegetation growing on the sand dunes and predicted increased erosion of the salt marsh behind the dunes.

By October 2007, the Wild Dunes property owners were under a state order to remove the wall of thousands of sandbags in front of their homes by November 30. The state issued a permit that allows renourishment but restricts it to the sand from an "upland source," not from Cedar Creek Spit in Dewees Inlet. The permit requires that the sandbags be removed as renourishment sand is laid, but the property owners want to keep the bags until enough sand accumulates on the beach to hold the renourishment in place. Legal action has been threatened by another property owner if the permit did not require the bags to be removed. In the last week before the deadline, city of Isle of Palms applied for a permit for a large-scale renourishment project that would include Wild Dunes.

In January 2008, an article by Prentiss Findlay in The Charleston Post and Courier stated that Isle of Palms had asked Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and the Army Corps of Engineers to approve a 2.6-mile beach nourishment project (from 47th Avenue to Dewees Inlet), which could begin as early as spring 2008. Up to 885,000 cubic yards of sand would be pumped onto the beach. The city would pay an estimated 20 percent share of the $9.7 million project and Wild Dunes (affected property owners, Wild Dunes Community Association and Wild Dunes Resort) would pay $6.8 million. Still unresolved was the fate of the sandbag wall in front of the resort and whether it would be allowed to remain until the beach nourishment project was initiated.

In February 2008, the owners of six condominium complexes and two other properties agreed to a consent order with S.C. Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, ending a two-month standoff with the agency. Property owners agreed to pay at least $1 million toward beach renournishment and a modest fine. But they can keep large sandbags in place until the beach is renourished, a project which began in late May 2008 and was expected to be completed by the end of July.

The $10 million project was completed ahead of schedule in July 2008. The city now must monitor the beach, repair "scarping" erosion hot spots and set fences to begin shaping dunes. A long-term beach management plan put together by Isle of Palms, enabling its officials to apply for state and federal renourishment money, says continued beach nourishment is part of a long-term management strategy.

In June 2009 it was reported that the 18th hole at Wild Dunes had been returned to a Par 5 after the renourishment of the beach at the end of the Isle of Palms. The course's closing hole is now a wide, Scottish links-style expanse behind mounds of dunes above a supple beach. The beach renourishment in 2008 handled its first blast of winter storms well, and the sand fences appear to be building more dunes. The $10 million project dredged sand from offshore for a two-and-a-half-mile stretch. It saved the inlet beach, the golf course and at least six condominium complexes, and put to rest nearly a decade of wrangling among property owners and residents that led to a test of wills between property owners and state regulators. Wild Dunes paid $7 million; the public paid the rest. The fight — whether public money should be used to shore up private property in a gated resort to protect potential tax revenue — is over, for now.

The Isle of Palms put $100,000 in reserve in 2008 from tourism tax money to pay for ongoing work on the project beach and its eventual renourishment; another $50,000 was set aside for work on other stretches of the city's seven miles of beach. That was supposed to be an annual payment. But after revenue shortfalls, there's no money set aside for it in the 2009-10 budget.

Update from December 2013: Permits that allow the sand bags at Wild Dunes were due to expire at the end of December. An offshore sandbar moving toward shore through the currents is not due to arrive for at least another year - and the arrival of that sand is the fix expected to shore up the signature 18th hole of the vaunted resort Links Course and at Ocean Club condominiums next door. Read more. June 2014 - sandbags still there and falling apart. And...still there and falling apart in September 2014. In October 2014 it was disclosed that a seawall had been illegally installed at the Wild Dunes condominium complex and hidden under the sandbags that have been present there for several years. DHEC has fined Wild Dunes $750,000 for this violation. In late October 2014 it was announced that the sandbags has been removed and the illegal seawall would also be removed in preparation for an upcoming beach fill project.

And in a further twist, an experimental "wave dissipator" (basically a permeable seawall) system is being tested at Wild Dunes, and although it has shown some promise, two negative reactions are as follows:

  • "Any kind of semi-permeable shore protection has a limited use at best. At the end of the day, what you really need is more sand on the beach," said Tim Kana, of Coastal Science and Engineering, who is overseeing management of the Wild Dunes erosion.
  • "As currently built and configured, the wave dissipation system could not be permitted," said Dan Burger, coastal service division director for S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. But DHEC will review the research, he said.

A project began in November 2014 to use dump trucks to move sand from an offshore shoal via a newly-built "natural causeway" to place sand in front of Wild Dunes. The city of Isle of Palms spent $200,000 for the current $1.2-million project, which was expected to conclude in January 2015. The balance of the cost is funded privately by groups such as the Wild Dunes Community Association. The city manages the project. In addition to the offshore work, enough sand to fill hundreds of dump trucks is being dug along 1,200 linear feet of beach between 53rd and 56th avenues. It is also being dug from 1,600 linear feet of shoreline in front of Beach Club Villas, Mariner's Walk and Shipwatch Villas, according to a city project map. Trucks haul the sand to be spread in front of Seascape, Ocean Club Villas and the 18th hole of the Wild Dunes golf course. Sand is also being carted to another hot spot in front of Beachwood East. More on this. A December 31, 2015 article in The Post & Courier updated the situation as follows:

The city moved 314,000 cubic yards of sand for Wild Dunes beach renourishment in 2012 and 2014 under the permit that allows digging of a total 500,000 cubic yards. That leaves the city with a balance of 186,000 cubic yards under the permit. The city wants to amend the permit from 500,000 cubic yards to 814,000 cubic yards, which would mean it would be allowed to scrape a total of 500,000 cubic yards of sand to address the latest erosion problem, according to a Coastal Science letter to regulators.

South Carolina's 2006 Coastal Assessment states:

"To date, no synthesis of beach nourishment impacts (beach and borrow areas) longevity, spatial distribution, etc. have been undertaken, and the OCRM-required monitoring conditions have varied from permit to permit."

The Department of Natural Resources Marine Resources Research Institute (MRRI) has conducted several beach nourishment and ocean disposal area studies. MRRI staff have monitored a number of beach nourishment projects since 1990 and are currently monitoring the progress of projects on Folly Beach, Hilton Head and Kiawah Island. As an example, the Study to Evaluate the Effects of Beach Nourishment at Folly Beach began in May 2005 and was published in 2008.

Figures cited in an article in USA Today (November 10, 2003) on beach fill indicated that the federal government had spent $91 million over the last 75 years on beach fill projects in South Carolina.

Information on beach fill in South Carolina is also available through Western Carolina University's Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. State-by-state information is available from the pull-down menu or by clicking on a state on the map on this page.

In 2017 the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) announced a new online National Beach Nourishment Database – featuring data on projects comprised of nearly 1.5 billion cubic yards of sand placed in nearly 400 projects covering the continental U.S. coastline. In addition to the total volume and the number of projects, the database includes the number of nourishment events, the oldest project, the newest project, the known total cost, the total volume and the known length. The information is broken into both state statistics and those of local or regional projects. Every coastal continental state is included (so Alaska and Hawaii are still being compiled), and projects along the Great Lakes are similarly waiting to be added.

A report National Assessment of Beach Nourishment Requirements Associated with Accelerated Sea Level Rise (Leatherman, 1989) on EPA's Climate Change Impacts and Adapting to Climate Change websites notes that the cumulative cost of sand replenishment to protect South Carolina's coast from a 50 to 200 cm rise in sea level by 2100 is estimated at $1.158 billion to $4.348 billion. However, sand replenishment may not be cost-effective for all coastal areas in the state, and therefore some savings could be possible.

The Fiscal Year 2017 Civil Works Budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides $4.62 billion in gross discretionary funding for the Civil Works program. This budget lists proposed projects and the associated budget justification by state.

State, Territory, and Commonwealth Beach Nourishment Programs: A National Overview (2000) is a report NOAA/OCRM that provides an overview of the problem of beach erosion, various means of addressing this problem, and discusses issues regarding the use of beach nourishment. Section 2 of the report provides an overview of state, territorial, and commonwealth coastal management policies regarding beach nourishment and attendant funding programs. Appendix B provides individual summaries of 33 beach nourishment programs and policies.


Bill Eiser
Staff Oceanographer
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control
Ocean and Coastal Resource Management
1362 McMillan Ave, Suite 400
Charleston, SC 29405
(843) 744-5838 x120

Blair Williams
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control
Ocean and Coastal Resource Management
(843) 953-0232

US Army Corps of Engineers
Programs & Projects Division
69A Hagood Ave.
Charleston, South Carolina 29403-5107
(843)329-2332 (Fax)


  1. OCRM's March 2003 State of the Beaches Report.

State of the Beach Report: South Carolina
South Carolina Home Beach Description Beach Access Water Quality Beach Erosion Erosion Response Beach Fill Shoreline Structures Beach Ecology Surfing Areas Website
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