EDISTO BEACH, SC (WCSC) - Restoration is underway on Edisto Beach following months of cleanup after Hurricane Matthew.
Crews were busy operating tractors and cranes on the beach for the town's re-nourishment project.
According to Steven Traynum, the project manager with Coastal Science & Engineering, the work has really gotten underway in the last 24-36 hours.
Crews are focused first on rebuilding the beach, which means pumping 956,000 cubic yards of sand from a spot in the ocean roughly a mile offshore.
"They use a dredge, it's a barge that sucks the sand up off the bottom, and it uses a mixture of the sand and water to pump onshore through a pipeline and it comes out right here," Traynum said. "Water goes back in the ocean and the sand falls out."
The project was supposed to happen last fall, but then Hurricane Matthew made its way along the coast creating even more damage.
"Especially the north end of the island, there's still a lot of damage where the high tide comes right up to the houses," Traynum said. "The rest of the beach is okay, but not as wide as we'd really like it."
"We saw it ten years ago when they did it," said Judy Williams, who has a home on Edisto Beach. "It's fascinating to watch."
The project will restore at least 100 feet of beach for the island and extend the groins.
The groins, or the rocky barriers, will be able to hold more sand on the beach.
"It's an area where the dune can stabilize and build, become vegetative and offer that storm protection we see at other beaches in the state," Traynum said.
The extension of the groins could also increase the amount of time between restorations.
"We're looking at an extended period from 10 years to 16 years before we technically should have to do any work from beach impacts," said Mayor Jane Darby.
Darby inspected the work Thursday morning, as crews continued to pump sand on the beach.
"It's like a mental whoopy every five seconds," she said. "You're just so excited that you're able to see the product of all this year's work and see improvements to the beach."
The $18 million project is being funded in various ways.
Darby said the town is forking over $3 million, and is focused on making sure it's not all coming from residents.
"We feel like… this is a public beach," she said. "This beach belongs to the people of South Carolina and we are simply stewards for the people of South Carolina. So I think it's necessary."
$4 million is coming from a Colleton County special purpose tax, a $6.8 million grant from PRT, which were funds awarded by the legislature in 2016, and finally money received from the damage Edisto Beach suffered during Joaquin, Hermine, and eventually Matthew.
The town is still receiving bids to try and rebuild the beach access paths, which also received damage from the storm.
At this time the Mayor said they haven't received word on the cost of damage from Hurricane Matthew, but are anticipating an economic loss this year.
Several rental properties were closed down for months, and are still working on repair from that storm.
"We need tourism," Darby said. "The tourists rent the house, which also provides a tax fund. They also patronize our restaurants, businesses, and bars and that provide hospitality taxes."
The beach is open to the public at this point, however you can't go beyond the fencing into the work area.
The goal is to have everything back to normal by May 1, before the major tourist season starts.