Originally created 07/11/98

Beach funding wanted



COLUMBIA -- In an attempt to get the funding to care for South Carolina's beaches out of the political tides, state environmental regulators want to create a multimillion dollar trust fund for the projects.

The South Carolina Beach Restoration and Improvement Trust Fund would set aside $250,000 annually for erosion studies and $250,000 for improving public access. To fund it, the Department of Health and Environmental Control would ask the Legislature for $3 million a year, to be matched by coastal counties and cities.

"Right now we're spending $2 million to $3 million each year anyway, and that is subject to political give and take," said Christopher Brooks, bureau chief of the office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management.

DHEC also would seek a one-time $3 million appropriation for emergencies, such as storm damage.

"It's a good idea to take a comprehensive look at renourishment programs rather than deal with emergencies when they pop up," said Nancy Vinson, of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League.

The DHEC board did not act on the proposal Thursday but told coastal office officials to start discussing the idea with local governments and legislators.

"This still has a long, long way to go," DHEC spokesman Thom Berry said.

The plan will be unveiled to coastal mayors in August.

"We have been planning for renourishment and have been putting money aside. We would be prepared to match any money the state would make available," said Toni Connor, Folly Bach's city administrator.

The proposal as it stands applies only to public beaches and would not cover the state's few private ones, Mr. Brooks said. Board member Cyndi Mosteller said the coastal office should study whether private beaches could be included "at a lower level of participation."

"I would think that someone who comes to a private community is spending more money than someone on a day trip" to a public beach, she said.