From The Blog

Town Plans Beach Restoration at East End

Kiawah’s normally accreting beach sand is experiencing significant winter erosion at the eastern end of the island near the Ocean Course. This is caused by the buildup of a large sand shoal offshore at the tip of Kiawah near the mouth of the Stono River.

Most years, due to a process known as a shoal bypass, this sand moves on shore and renourishes all of Kiawah’s beach. If this does not naturally happen, then the resulting wave action causes erosion at the eastern end.

In order to stimulate what nature does most years, the restoration project would involve closing a flushing channel near the Ocean Course driving range and opening a channel through the shoal buildup. At the same time, land based equipment would move 100,000 cubic yards of sand from the shoal and place it near the Ocean Course driving range and 18th green.

The current project will be a smaller version of the successful major project completed in 2006 at the same location. As before, piping plover habitat on Kiawah and nearby beaches will be monitored for several years.

Anticipating the growing problem, the Town of Kiawah applied for permits with regulatory authorities (i.e. OCRM) in May 2014, and all have been approved. Originally scheduled for September, work is now scheduled to begin May 15.

However, since erosion rapidly increased during the months of January and February, emergency action was required. The town worked with OCRM to issue an emergency sand bagging and sand scraping order on Feb. 19. As a result, 2,000 sand bags we replaced on the beach. In addition, sand scraping activities were conducted in late February, though those have since been halted until further research into habitat area impact is conducted.

The sandbags have effectively slowed the erosion rate in the area, though above average high tides in recent weeks may increase those rates again. At time of publication, the emergency order that approved the sandbags was set to expire on March 31. OCRM would need to approve any additional emergency orders.

In addition to these emergency efforts and the planned major restoration project, smaller restoration projects may be needed every three to four years due to the significant amount of sand flowing from the Stono River each year. Any future projects will again be a cooperative effort between the town, regulatory agencies and the resort.

For more information on this project, visit kiawahisland.org or contact the town at 843-768-9166.

Article contributed by Digest Member Volunteer Bill Hindman.