Federal Cuts Threaten to Erode Tybee Beaches - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

03/10/05

Federal Cuts Threaten to Erode Tybee Beaches

Tybee Island attracts thousands of tourists to the Coastal Empire every year. But a slash in federal funding may leave less of a beach for people to enjoy. A program called the Shore Protection Project provides beaches around the country millions of dollars to for restoration. But this year, there's a great chance that Tybee Island may not be getting a penny.

"The beach, to Tybee, it's its identity," said city manager Bob Thomson.

And every year, businesses make millions because of it. But that could change. Every year, the government provides communities nationwide with more than a $100 million to restore, replenish and renourish their shorelines. But in President George Bush's 2006 budget, he is asking for just 46 million, less than half than in previous years.

Translation? Tybee may get nothing.

"If there's not a beach, there's no tourism," said the Desoto Beach Hotel's Greg Stoeffler.

Stoeffler is part owner of the hotel, which sits right on the beach. He says the last time the Army Corps of Engineers renourished the Tybee beach was in 2000. Crews brought in thousands of cubic yards of sand.

Stoeffler says since then, business shot up more than 100 percent. "The more beach we get, the better for business, the better for tourism."

"It's not just important to Tybee, it's important to Chatham County tourism and the State of Georgia," said city manager Thompson.

The mayor of Tybee Island, Walter Parker, is actually in Washington, DC, right now rallying for funding. The City of Tybee is hopeful the funding is restored.

Reported by: Hena Daniels, hdaniels@wtoc.com

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