Folly Beach Pier repair work expected to begin end of March

Pilings in the diamond-head of the pier were encapsulated in 2014 (Source: Live 5)
Pilings in the diamond-head of the pier were encapsulated in 2014 (Source: Live 5)
A piling in the breaker area which will be repaired (Source: Live 5)
A piling in the breaker area which will be repaired (Source: Live 5)

FOLLY BEACH, SC (WCSC) - Repair work is expected to get underway at the end of the month to secure some of the pilings on the Folly Beach Pier.

The Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission (CCPRC) has contracted Hydro Corporation to encapsulate some of the pilings on the more than 20-year-old pier.

"We're hoping to get the notice to proceed next week," said Capital Project Manager Bruce Wright with the CCPRC. "So it takes usually about two weeks for the fiber glass sleeves to come in. Then after the fiber glass sleeves come in they'll be able to actually start."

A few months ago divers completed an inspection on the pier and came back with some concerns about its safety.

"There's about maybe 15 piles or so that are actually in a pretty bad state right now because of the marine borers," Wright said.

Marine borers, or simply underwater termites, affect wooden piers all over the country.

They eat away at the lumber, creating a potentially unsafe area for the public.

"If somebody did a study on this and it's needed to be done, because otherwise the pier is going to fall off into the Atlantic Ocean, I think it probably needs to be done," said Steve Bradley, and occasional fisher.

From the end of March through early June, beach goers can expect to see divers out in the breaker area, putting fiber glass sleeves around the pilings, and then filling it with concrete.

"It kills the worms and then fortifies the piles themselves by putting cement around them," Wright said.

The sleeves will go two feet below the mudline and two feet above the mean high tide.

"They'll be putting the fiber glass sleeves over the side with ropes and things like that, and then they'll have an area which will be cornered off where they'll be mixing the cement and then pumping it into the sleeves," Wright said.

Officials said there shouldn't be any major impacts for beach goers, but there are some areas you would have to avoid.

"It's only going to impact the people who want to fish in a particular spot where the encapsulations are going," Wright said. "If that happens, they'll have to mark off that area, and go fish in another location."

"I've seen it done before, down around Miami, and different places," said Roy McKinney, of Indiana.

"The safety of people on the pier is more than a couple months of a little inconvenience, I would think," Bradley added.

The repair work is expected to cost $217,000 for the 11 pilings.

"It's coming out of our bond money that we get," Wright said. "It's in the neighborhood of a $40 million bond we'll be getting."

The renovated pilings should last for several years.

Wright said this will give the CCPRC time to figure out what to do with the pier.

"What we're trying to do is make sure we have a good structurally sound pier for at least the next four years," Wright said. "So that while we're in the process of getting a consultant on board and figuring out how to replace this pier, we have a solid pier for the public."

In 2014 Hydro Corporation repaired more than 30 of the pilings in the diamond-head area of the pier.

"The diamond-head is actually a solid structure at this point," Wright said.

At this time CCPRC doesn't know what the best option is for the Folly Beach Pier in the future.

Wright explained they're looking at various options and locations of building a new pier, including what kind of material will be used.

The Folly Beach Pier was built from lumber, which is significantly less expensive then concrete.

"[It's] unfortunate in the long run, because concrete piles, if you use those, they average 65-75 years if a life expectancy," Wright said. "It would probably cost around $7 million for a concrete pier, versus 20-25 years and around $3 million for a wooden or timber piles."

The goal is to have the piling renovations completed by June 15.

Copyright 2017 WCSC. All rights reserved.