HHI officials working on project to restore beaches

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC (WTOC) - Hilton Head Island town officials are working on a project to restore the island's beaches.

Town officials say the shore loses tens of thousands of cubic yards of sand each year, and more recently because of last week's storms and high tides.

There's not much they can do to stop the erosion, so they're working on a project to take sand from the ocean and place it on the shore.

This is a massive, multi-million dollar project that's been done three times already in Hilton Head. Twice in the 90s and again in 2006.

The town was planning on starting the project this fall or winter during the tourism off season, but says the project might not get started until 2016. The benefits of the renourishment go beyond tourism and environmental purposes.

Shore Beach Services says when there's more sand, it makes the jobs of lifeguards and beach patrol much easier.

"After it's done it makes it a lot easier because there's just more room to get around and more room for people on the beach because they've got that much more area to work with, and for us driving up and down the beach," said Mike Wagner, Shore Beach Services.

The project will cost an estimated $22 million and it will be funded by the town.

Folks say when the beach is fully replenished, there's more than 100 feet of sand during high tide. Last week, Shore Beach Services say at high tide there was barely any room to move.

"A lot of areas where after the last renourishment we might have had several, maybe a hundred, two hundred feet of soft sandy beach at high tide, where we've got nothing right now," said Wagner.

Wagner has worked with Hilton Head Shore Beach Services for more than 20 years. He says the erosion is taking a toll on the island's beaches and it became noticeable when there were very high tides and stormy weather last week.

"We've had days in the last two weeks where at high tide, we're stuck in one place. You better had planned on where you're going to be at that time because you're not going anywhere because there's nowhere to go," said Wagner.

The town anticipated the erosion, and it's working on a project to put more sand on the shores. The renourished 13-mile stretch of beach will give beachgoers more room to enjoy Hilton Head and Shore Beach Services more space to work.

"We've hoped they could get it going for a couple of years now, but we'll definitely be ready for it," said Wagner.

Officials are in the process of choosing a contractor for the project, then they'll pick a timeframe. The project is expected to take four to five months.

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