Debris, Beach Renourishment Could Cost Hilton Head Millions

About $12 million may be need to undo what Matthew did in about 12 hours on the beaches of Hilton Head Island.

It took just that long to get rid of 700,000 cubic yards of sand, beach that the beach renourishment program had been working on for about 6 months.

South beach lost 100,000 cubic yards of beach in Hurricane Matthew, now needs to be added to renourishment project
South beach lost 100,000 cubic yards of beach in Hurricane Matthew, now needs to be added to renourishment project

The beach renourishment project had already been budgeted at $20.7 million, but this storm probably tacked on another $6 million in Town money alone says Steve Riley, Hilton Head Town Manager.

Much of that cost from the massive sand movement on South Beach.

“South Beach had always been an area that was gaining sand,” explains Riley. “The sand we were placing say in the Coligny area was migrating down there and building up in that location and now its blown out a large portion of the sand there.”

The Town is ready to pay for South beach renourishment and to keep the project and the sand moving says Riley. That cost expected to be about $12 million more from Hilton Head alone.

One problem, the men who move the sand with their equipment have other jobs, in other parts of the US, and need to move on.

“I dont want him to leave but i understand his issues, I understand FEMA’s needs. and something may have to give here,” says Riley.

Giving means a potential delay at the beach, and moving the sand back to next year.. or longer.

“Moved almost 500,000 cubic yards of debris we’ve already picked up and that Is not even close to half of what we think is out there,” explained Steve Riley.

The debris on land has been moving out at a rapid rate. All the major plantations Riley says have been cleared for pickup and most importantly FEMA reimbursement. Many other private streets and communities are on the list too.

180,000 cubic pounds of debris getting picked up every day in Hilton Head
180,000 cubic pounds of debris getting picked up every day in Hilton Head

FEMA will reimburse up to 75% of all debris cleanup, which Riley believes will be a big price tag.

“Our estimate on debris is about $35 million and that may be a little low,” siad Riley. “and our total cost 55 million and we know thats going to grow.”

The pickup will take months, and the cost will keep rising, along with people’s anger as they wait to get the Island, back to “normal”.

“People say well lets just get more trucks in here. My limitation is becoming how many chips can i get out the back door after its been processed.”

“None of this is over yet,” explains the Town Manager. “We have a long way to go and a lot of things to focus on.”

What many people are focused on now is the cost of this to Hilton Head, and how it will affect taxpayers. WIll the Town have enough money to pay for the cost?

Riley says there is enough in the reserve fund to pick up the $17 million price tag.

“Yes we could. Now we can pay these bills now the next summer start of hurricane season, can i count on no hurricanes next year? its been 50 years since the last one can I count on 50 years again.. im not sure i can take that risk.”

The State of South Carolina may help pick up the tab as well, but no one is counting on that yet.

The plantations and private community members will have to do their part as well.

“You are probably talking about special assessments, I think in a lot of the communities,” said Riley. “Even if they don’t want to talk about it yet and will be made at me for saying it, I think they will all have to have some conversation about it.

“These are unexpected costs, they just are and no one has the reserves to pay for it and not recoup that money.”

The Town can pay for it now, Riley says delays to some programs and projects will have to happen. Things like beautification of the flyover will have to wait.

If next year’s hurricane season is clean, then there may be time and money to look at them again.

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