Tybee beach renourishment plans move forward

Comment on the plan

Anyone wishing to comment on the proposed renourishment project should submit comments in writing no later than Jan. 17, 2014, to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, Planning Division, ATTN: Ms. Ellie Covington, 100 W. Oglethorpe Ave., Savannah, GA 31401-0889. Comments may also be submitted via fax to 912-652-5787 or via email to CESAS-PD.SAS@usace.army.mil

With Tybee Island due for a beach renourishment in 2015, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released for public comment two key documents related to the project.

The Draft Environmental Assessment and Draft Finding of No Significant Impact evaluate the environmental impacts of the proposed beach renourishment for the Tybee Island Shore Protection Project on Tybee Island, Ga. The assessment is the primary tool the corps uses to determine whether or not to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement. A finding of no significant impact is issued when environmental analysis and interagency review during the assessment process find a project to have no significant impacts on the quality of the environment.

The proposed project is estimated to cost from $15 million to $19.2 million, said Tybee Mayor Jason Buelterman. Tybee expects the federal government to cover 60.5 percent of the cost. The remaining 39.5 percent will likely be shared between the state and the city of Tybee Island.

“We have requested the state fund 30 percent,” Buelterman said. “That leaves us with around 10 percent. We have come up with our portion.” Tybee representatives have had repeated meetings with the governor to let him know their request will be forthcoming.

The finding of no significant environmental impact was “huge,” Buelterman said.

“That’s held up projects in other parts of the country,” he said. “Getting through that means we’re going to get it accomplished on time, in the winter of ‘15-‘16.”

The 3.5-mile-long project was initially constructed in 1974 with a 50-year project life, with periodic renourishments to occur every 7 years. The beach was last renourished in 2008. The proposed project would occur between November 2015 and April 2016, according to the corps. The activity would be similar to that of previous renourishments, with similar techniques and equipment employed, as well as enhanced measures for public safety.

The renourishment process involves using a cutterhead dredge to move about 1.7 million cubic yards of high quality sand from an area located 1.5 miles from the southern tip of Tybee Island. The deposited sand would be enough to compensate for the erosion expected to occur over the subsequent nine years. The project will include placing sand up to the north terminal groin. This northern area was included in previous renourishment cycles, but not the 2008 renourishment.

“It is good news,” said Tybee council member Paul Wolff. “Obviously we depend on the beach for our economy. Everything that gets done to move the process forward helps. We’re optimistic we’ll get the federal cost share again.”