Cherry Grove dredging extended; homeowners have extra cost on top of annual fee

Cherry Grove dredging extended; homeowners have extra cost on top of annual fee

CHERRY GROVE, SC (WMBF) - A $16 million project that's been years in the making is not going to make its deadline.

Another lasting impact of Hurricane Matthew is pushing the completion of the Cherry Grove dredge project to April 30.

The point of the dredge is to clear out the muck and provide a clean gateway for boats at low tide.  The dredging began the first few days of November, right after Hurricane Matthew. Work was supposed to be done on March 1.

North Myrtle Beach spokesman Pat Dowling said the good news is, whether the dredge is finished in April or May, the cost won't change.

Dowling said much of the delay is due to heavy dredging equipment that couldn't be safely transported over South Carolina roadways and bridges after the hurricane.

Those roadways and bridges needed safety approval from the South Carolina Department of Transportation first.

According to Dowling, as of now, all channels are finished, with the exception of four canals near 63rd Avenue. He said debris in the canals and broken dredge parts also contributed to the hold up.

"Sometimes people see the dredge is idle for two days and wonder what's going on. It could be a dredge part that's broken or significant parts in the huge booster system that drives the spoils through the pipeline to the spoils basin," Dowling said. "So we've had our share of those."

The spoils basin is located near Sea Mountain Highway. Before the project began, a mini lake was dug to hold the muck collected from the dredge. Dowling said that basin is almost full, but he expects it to hold the last remaining areas to be dredged.

Dowling said the contractor has found everything from lawn chairs to car bumpers in the canals.

Currently, the contractor is working to remove an old roof in one of the canals, according to Dowling. They believe it blew into the water during a hurricane decades ago.

Homeowners along the canals are set up to pay upwards of $2,400 a year for up to 10 years. Although the dredge project is expected to increase real estate prices and improve boating, some Cherry Grove homeowners are calling the city wondering why the dredge didn't reach their bulkheads.

Dowling said the dredge contract is to dredge 24 feet wide in the canals. Some channels are larger than others, and for some homeowners, that 24 feet isn't wide enough to reach their docks.

According to Dowling, those homeowners are responsible for hiring their own contractor to additionally dredge near their privately-owned property, or risk a damaged dock.

He added the city tried to help out by allowing the dredge company to subcontract to homeowners as they dredged by their property, but property laws deem it illegal.

Dowling said if the city's 24-foot dredge did not reach the bulkheads, it's imperative to finish the dredging near privately-owned bulkheads, or docks could break.

The dock will only float on one side until it's dredged, Dowling explained.  However, he said homeowners can apply for a dredge permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge up to 25 cubic yards from the channel, and save their dock.

Dowling doesn't know the amount it will cost each homeowner to dredge near their bulkheads.  He said reputable contractors are available on the North Myrtle Beach website, or recommends calling him for suggestions.

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