Coastal officials are asking the state legislature for a dedicated funding source to regularly replenish the sand on area beaches, particularly along the Grand Strand where recent storms have damaged the shoreline and washed away dunes.
The funding issue should not be a coastal versus inland problem, but viewed as an economic driver that affects the entire state, State Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, Georgetown Republican, told a Senate panel Tuesday reviewing the matter.
About one-third of all state tax revenues are collected from Horry County, an estimated $485 million last year, Goldfinch added.
Officials say that creating a reserve of dedicated funding rather than relying on the general fund to meet federal matching requirements would ensure that money is available in emergency situations.
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And, it assures that the state’s cash cow won’t run dry in the event of a destructive hurricane.
“You’ve just got to feed the cow a little bit, and we’ll keep delivering,” Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Brad Dean told the panel.
“It’s a good partnership for the state,” Dean said.
Horry County Chairman Mark Lazarus testified about the damage caused by hurricanes Joaquin and Matthew, and said dunes are compromised in the Garden City and Cherry Grove area.
“Continued erosion threatens property and lives in the event of another storm,” Lazarus said in his written statement. “Without a beach renourishment in the near future, the state’s tourism economy is at risk.”
Lazarus said after the Senate hearing that he felt their point was made clear to the committee chairman, State Sen. Harvey S. Peeler.
Peeler agreed with those testifying that the funding is essential, but did not commit to specifics on where the funds would be collected to create a dedicated funding pot.
“I think we are all in agreement that parts of the South Carolina coast are eroding, so the question is, is this an environmental problem, natural resource problem or tourism economy problem?” Peeler said. “I submit that this is all of the above.”
Horry County successfully obtained $16 million in federal funding last year for Garden City and Surfside beach renourishment projects, plus $3.7 million from the state.
County and local officials from Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach now are asking for $27 million in federal dollars and $7.5 million in state money to renourish those beaches.
The federal government funds 65 percent of beach renourishment projects, but requires 17.5 percent in matching dollars from local governments and 17.5 percent in matching monies from state governments.