March 5, 2013
Several authorities were present for an informational meeting at Folly Beach City Hall on Tuesday night, including the US Army Corps of Engineers, DHEC, and the City of Folly Beach. The meeting room was overflowing, and several guests made presentations to the group, followed by a question and answer period. The mood was calm and helpful, and many issues were explored and considered. The authorities explained the processes and reasoning behind permitting decisions, and offered assistance by meeting on site or helping fill out the proper applications. A sign-up sheet was offered for a personal consultation. It was clear they were not there to discuss specific requests, but more to explain the process of permitting. Some of the issues discussed were property improvements in the authority’s jurisdiction, utilities and septic systems on private property, and the Folly Beach re-nourishment program.
This article is to serve as a helpful summary of events that occurred at the meeting, please feel free to comment or correct, if any of the quotes or views represented are not accurate. I was present at the meeting and if I can answer any questions or help in any way feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.
The meeting started with a welcome and introduction of the guests by Folly Beach mayor Tim Goodwin.
The first speaker was DHEC Wetland Project Manager, Bill Eiser, who spoke about the location of the jurisdiction of DHEC, the policy of the Beachfront Management Act, and instructions on how to apply for a permit for improvements. He explained the difference between critical jurisdiction, which includes grounds affected by tidal wave action (think beaches and inlet areas), and limited jurisdiction, which included grounds landward of the critical jurisdiction. He continued to cover the policy of the Beachfront Management which is highlighted by the terms preserve, protect, restore, and enhance the beach/dune system. The full policies can be found here http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/ocrm/beachfront_management.htm
He finished by covering the permitting process and invited DHEC Acting Manager of Enforcement, Sean Briggs to talk briefly about compliance and violation resolution.
The next guest was Richard Threatt, with DHEC Environmental Health Services, to discuss Septic Systems on Folly Beach. He covered some of the guidelines including the setback for new septic systems on folly Beach of 75 feet from mean high water mark. He followed by mentioning they are always available for consultation on site remediation or repair. He raised a concern of beachfront erosion exposing septic systems and was willing to help consult in those situations. He finished by explaining the importance of system maintenance, especially rental property septic system maintenance, which should be done more often than normal, recommended at every 2-3 years.
Next was the Commander of the Charleston District of the US Army Corps of Engineers, LTC Edward P. Chamberlayne. His agenda was to explain the authority of the Corps, give the status of the federal beach re-nourishment project, cover beachfront activities requiring a permit, go over permitting options, obtaining a permit, enforcement , and offering help and assistance.
Here is the status of Folly Beach federal re-nourishment project. In 2011, a report concluded that the erosion levels meet requirements for a new project. The corps received funding in 2013 to complete a plan to advertise for a contract to complete the work. No funding is in place to commence the project. The corps is actively pursuing supplemental funds, but is dependent on appropriations from Congress. They shared the frustration, assured everyone they are eager to move forward, and recommended that contacting representatives was the path to follow for concerned citizens.
He then spoke about permitting levels at the federal level, which included Nationwide, General, and Individual permits. These levels allow an application to obtain a permit, with Nationwide being the easiest and most streamlined, and Individual the toughest and having the most intense criteria. He stated that most homeowner requests fall into the first two categories, and Individual is typically reserved for large scale municipality projects.
LTC Chamberlayne finished by directing everyone to their website http://www.sac.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory.aspx for permitting instructions and more information, and telling everyone they are happy to meet and discuss applications on site at Folly Beach.
Eric Lutz with the City of Folly Beach spoke about the Folly Beach ordinance involving construction standards for bulkheads, seawalls, and revetments, and offered his help and assistance acting as a contact person and liaison for all the present authorities.
Mayor Goodwin stepped back up and invited questions for the panel.
Folly Beach City Councilman Paul Hume started things off by asking where the sand will come from for the re-nourishment project. The Corps answered that the sand should come from the same location as before, about 3 miles offshore. Hume followed up with suggesting the sand be taken from the Stono Inlet and deposited onshore. The corps admitted that the funding is not present to currently maintain the Stono Inlet, let alone study the deepening of the inlet.
Folly Beach City Councilman Pennell Clamp asked what is being done for a long term solution as opposed to periodic re-nourishment. Another guest later followed up on this, and questioned the Corps incentive for a long term solution, given the expiration of the current agreement in 25 years. The Corps response was that there are no current plans for a study of long term solutions. They also highlited that the costs for a long term solution could be in the hundreds of millions and that other beachfront areas in the United States and abroad have had alternative capital investments than what we are working with here on Folly Beach. He questioned if there is an appetite for incurring costs and encouraged municipalities and private investors to provide a funding plan. The Corps will happily work with the capital and commence a solution. LTC Chamberlayne assured that the environmental needs were not lost on the Corps and they fully understood the difficulties of long term solutions.
Lisa Metheny, US Army Corps of Engineers representative was also very helpful in answering questions all night. At this point she encouraged (wink, wink) that she could receive an application for an evaluation study of long term solutions. She followed that a cost share analysis that makes sense to all parties should be included. An estimate of $1-3 million was given for a study and there was a mention of a current study near Edisto Island that cost $1.5 million. She finished by encouraging citizens to continue to submit observations and ideas and assured everyone that they are all read and kept on file.
Mayor Goodwin commented that Senator Lindsey Graham, Congressman Jim Clyburn, Governor Nikki Haley, and State Representative Peter McCoy were all involved in the fight and were hard at work to secure the funding. He mentioned Senator Tim Scott was also involved but was suffering from being “low man on the totem pole”.
A Folly Beach resident questioned if Dynamite Hole in the Harbor caused more intense waves that could be responsible for increased erosion on the beach, but the answer was unknown.
A resident commented on a concern about road damage at the lighthouse end of the beach, which was answered by “we are monitoring it, but it is not at critical levels yet” by Mayor Goodwin.
A question was asked if alternative sources of funding had been investigated such as university research, or leasing for wind turbines offshore to help with mitigation and re-nourishment costs. This was taken on record.
A resident asked if sand fencing was helpful. The response was it accumulated sand and created a dune, but did nothing to prevent erosion.
What should be done in the meantime to prevent erosion was asked and they were encouraged to submit an application for a permit for improvements and Eric Lutz offered help to facilitate.
A resident commented that there were 14 houses built past the washout that were encroaching on the beach and were causing a dangerous area. He questioned whether DHEC would order a house removal in dangerous areas. The answer was that if they had conditioned the permit originally, it would be an easier process, but since that was not done it would be a tough legal battle. They went on record as pointing out that they had never ordered a house removal. The Corps followed up with the point that those houses were not in their jurisdiction.
Katie Zimmerman from the Coastal Conservation League asked if a sand bypass system to the Charleston Harbor jetties had been considered. The Corps responded that it was not part of the deepening study of the harbor, and explained that studies have a narrow purpose, and this was not part of the study. No study had been requested for the purpose of the question.
The discussion turned to the County Park beach groin topic with a question regarding the status. Legal counsel for DHEC and the Corps responded by saying that no permit issued at this time and a decision is pending. I later learned from Zimmerman that the CCL has withdrawn all comments on the permit except for the condition of keeping an independent source on the review board to determine if there are any affects downstream. She stated that Skimmer flats and Bird Key are 1 of the 4 remaining shorebird habitats on the SC coast and needed to be protected. She was not aware of a response to that request.
A question was raised about how appropriations were made for the re-nourishment project. Metheny answered that there are project criteria at the Corps which allows them to rank projects by priority. The projects go through a series of performance based questions such as value of property protected, life/safety/health issues, and whether a community is participating in the national flood insurance program, among others. Then when the money is budgeted, they can commence work on projects in order of priority. She recommended contacting representatives with any input.
Mayor Goodwin stated that the goal at the present time was to achieve funding for the current project, and long term solutions could deter progress on this goal. He recommended we get through this and then tackle long term solutions.
At this point the meeting was adjourned.