Ocean outfall project delays costing taxpayers - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Ocean outfall project delays costing taxpayers

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NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The push for pricey projects continues. Grand Strand cities have been spending millions on underground pipes to take stormwater off of the beach, and dump it far out into the ocean. But now it's getting harder to keep the ocean clean.

The City of Myrtle Beach has postponed its planned outfall project for this year because of the higher-than-expected price of construction. In North Myrtle Beach, an outfall project is about to begin, but at a big cost.

Ocean outfall projects have been happening for 10 years, but now things are changing. The first four underground stormwater pipes in North Myrtle Beach cost $15 million total to install, but this latest project will cost more than $9 million by itself. Part of the reason is because larger pipes are being used, but it's also because of new rules affecting cities all along the South Carolina coast.

Instead of a blanket permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, these projects now have to go through the complicated process of getting a federal permit and permission from different state agencies.

"Each outfall now must undergo individual environmental and other reviews prior to the issuance of a federal permit, plus SC DHEC and Ocean and Coastal Resource Management agencies are now involved," said North Myrtle Beach Public Information Officer Pat Dowling.

This can stretch the length of the process to up to two years, which means more money, because the price of construction continues to go up. The taxpayer's pocket also gets affected because the stormwater fees go toward the multi-million dollar projects. Cities along the Grand Strand are in a difficult position to try and keep the oceanwater clean.

"Because everybody knows that if suddenly your ocean waters become known as bacteria-ridden, then people will go elsewhere," explained Dowling. "And if they go elsewhere, everybody suffers."

The City of Myrtle Beach Hopes to start its ocean outfall project next year, if it's affordable. In North Myrtle Beach, there are eight more ocean outfall projects that need to be done in the future. The city just collects the money and does the projects whenever it's possible. But in the meantime, there are efforts to work for additional money from state and federal levels.

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