The City of Charleston won a victory in President Barack Obama’s proposed 2013 budget with the inclusion of $3.5 million in research money for the deepening of the port. Folly Beach, on the other hand, seems to have gotten the shaft.
State Rep. Peter McCoy, whose district includes Folly Beach and James Island, is incensed that Obama set aside only $400,000 in the Army Corps of Engineers budget for renourishment of the severely eroded shoreline at Folly Beach. The popular beach took a beating when Hurricane Irene made landfall in August 2011, especially within the confines of a Charleston County park at the southwestern end of town. The Corps of Engineers has estimated that the cost of fixing the beach could be as much as $18 million.
In a stinging press release Thursday, McCoy announced that he would travel to Washington D.C. at the end of the month to pressure U.S. Senators Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham to fight for funding. McCoy says he does not want an earmark; instead, he wants funding from “failed Department of Energy projects” (like investment in the infamously insolvent solar panel manufacturer Solyndra) to be diverted to Folly Beach. Here’s what else he had to say:
My grandfather always said, “There’s nothing more expensive than deferred maintenance.” As evidenced by his budget, President Obama’s grandfather never taught him the same lesson.
Put another way, the President’s budget is the epitome of being penny-wise and pound-foolish. Instead of making a small investment in local beach renourishment today, the President’s budget defers such investments until the future – when the problems and the price tags will be bigger. By making such a poor fiscal decision, the President not only causes more money to be spent in the long run, but he also further endangers our coastal infrastructure, hundreds of jobs, and the billions of dollars our economy receives from tourism.
While we have been fortunate to avoid a direct hit by a hurricane in recent years, coastal storms have taken their toll on local areas including Folly Beach. These storms have eroded the vital protection provided by this beach and degraded its value as a tourist destination.
The situation has become so bad that the mouth of the Stono Inlet has migrated up the beach into Charleston County Park. This erosion has cut off the park’s boardwalk and office from the mainland and turned this once popular beach destination into an inaccessible monument to inefficient federal government maintenance.
Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin will accompany McCoy on his trip to Washington Feb. 27, along with U.S. Rep. Tim Scott. Goodwin says the financial impact of the erosion is not certain yet, since it began at the end of the summer, but he anticipates the city will feel the pain when the peak tourist season starts up again.
“What you’re going to see in the summertime is all those people who normally are going to come to the red light on Folly Beach and turn right are going to have to go somewhere else,” Goodwin says. He also notes that the closing of the county park has meant less coverage of swim zones by lifeguards. And the erosion is only getting worse.
“If you haven’t been down in a couple of months, you will be shocked,” he says. The park office has become a small island, and a raised boardwalk over the dunes is now planted in land that is underwater.
The federal government signed a 50-year contract to repair periodic erosion on Folly Beach after a 1992 study showed that jetties — manmade underwater barriers running perpendicular to the shoreline — were worsening erosion on the five-mile beach. Charleston’s jetties were installed in 1893 to keep sand from collecting at the entrance to the harbor, which now stands to be deepened.
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