When Will Debris be Gone from Hilton Head?

FEMA does not allow the Town of Hilton Head to pick up any debris on private roads before getting Federal approval
FEMA does not allow the Town of Hilton Head to pick up any debris on private roads before getting Federal approval

Slowly but surely the trees that fell during Hurricane Matthew are being cut up and stacked up. But on Hilton Head Island everyone is asking when will they be picked up?

“We’ve processed 165,000 cubic yards of debris so far,” explained Steve Riley, Hilton Head Town Manager.

60 Crews are moving debris off Hilton Head public roads all day
60 Crews are moving debris off Hilton Head public roads all day

And Honey Horn has most of it. Trucks moving in and out all day long, packing enough trees and home debris to fill 10 football fields, each stacked 10 feet high.

That’s just off the public parts of Hilton Head.

1034 homes, more than 70% of the island, and 83% of roads are considered private property, and can’t be touched.. yet.

Debris continues to cover roads in various Plantations on the Island
Debris continues to cover roads in various Plantations on the Island

“What FEMA has told us is if we set foot across the line and cross to private property before they have made a decision,” explains Riley. “Everything we do after that is our own dime never to be reimbursed, and we can’t take that hit.”

If it agrees to give Federal funding for debris removal on private roads, FEMA would pay 87% of the cost in the first 30 days, 82% in the next 60 days, and after 90 days FEMA would cover 77% of the cost. All other dollars would be from the coffers of the County, Town or Plantation owners themselves.

That hit would be in the 10’s of millions according to Town Manager Steve Riley.

“We’ve got 10’s of millions in reserve, but at some point as we keep saying FEMA’s reimbursement which means we have to spend first. How much we can sustain the spend rate remains to be seen.”

Honey Horn has become a dumping spot for the 165,000 cubic yards of debris collected so far
Honey Horn has become a dumping spot for the 165,000 cubic yards of debris collected so far

So while some plantations have decided to start pickup and bill their homeowners, most continue to be hit with bigger piles along the side of the road as everyone waits for FEMA to step up and give the town the go ahead to pick it up.

“i understand their (FEMA’s) dilemma,” says Riley. “They were very sympathetic on the ground, but they are the lowest level and the final decision is made above their pay grade.”

It took FEMA 10-12 days to agree to clean out private property in Louisiana after the floods there, so this area is still on the clock. 60 crews are out on the Island picking up debris from public roads every day. But each day that passes without a FEMA decision could cost Hilton Head and its citizens, money.

Much of the debris is being ground up into mulch
Much of the debris is being ground up into mulch

“The faster we move higher the percentage we get for reimbursement so we’ve got these crews out there as soon as things slow down they start looking for more places to go and when you lose them you don’t get them back.”

Riley says Hilton head asked for a pre-approval from FEMA for private roads and plantation debris removal reimbursement, in case a storm hit. But the town was told it had to wait until disaster struck.

If you have any questions about debris removal anywhere in Beaufort County, you can call
1-877-786-storm12… that’s 1-877-786-7612.

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