It might surprise many people in the Charleston area that real live people reside year round in the condos and oceanfront homes in Wild Dunes on the Isle of Palms. Most of us are senior citizens and we are trying to protect and save our homes using the Wave Dissipation System (“WDS”) as we await proper beach re-nourishment. The WDS is a new, scientific, experimental technology that is being studied by the Citadel and is privately funded by the residents of our community. We are making every effort to cause the least amount of disruption to the environment. In the long run we also hope that the WDS study will prove to assist other coastal areas.
The WDS is more environmentally friendly than other means of protection that are currently available. First and foremost, it negates the use of plastic sand bags except in extreme weather conditions, i.e. hurricanes. The WDS produces no debris or pollution for our beaches and the ocean. The system has not caused one injury or death to sea turtles or other animals in our ecosystem. The WDS may have even assisted the endangered turtles by helping them to avoid very dangerous areas for nesting. The system is also moveable and can be dismantled with short notice.
As coastal residents, we care about the turtles and all of our coastal habitat. South Carolina has 186.41 miles of nesting habitat for sea turtles. The WDS system at Ocean Club covers only 205 feet (0.053%) of turtle nesting area in S.C. In 2017, S.C. documented more than 5,200 turtle nests, and over 6,670 false crawls. False crawls are a phenomenon that happen every nesting season and in every location where turtles nest. This year on Isle of Palms 43 nests were documented and 29 false crawls. This is the largest number of documented nests in the past four years on Isle of Palms and the false crawl number is much lower than many other areas of our state! There were no false crawls in front of the WDS system or adjoining beach at Ocean Club property in 2017.
While the WDS is not a perfect solution, it is a good option and good invention worthy of an opportunity to prove itself. As residents who live on the beach, we have observed the system and have seen how it works to protect our homes. We have watched and measured the sand build up and have seen the area slowly re-nourish itself in the most ecologically safe technology available at this time. Earlier this year the DHEC board ruled in favor of one more year for the WDS experiment to collect more complete data. The cost of the experiment and the system is privately funded at no cost to taxpayers except for court cases filed by SCWF and the Sierra Club, to prevent the use of the WDS.
When Ocean Club was developed in 1986-1988, the two condominium buildings were placed well behind the setback line as it was drawn at that time. Building 1 was at least 400 feet from the mean high tide line. If proper beach management had been practiced by responsible government entities, the distance from Building 1 to the ocean today would be much greater.
The optimum solution to coastal erosion is beach renourishment and restoration of the dune system. Most coastal states re-nourish on a regular basis to protect their coastlines.
The owners of Ocean Club condominiums would much prefer the kind of beach management plan that is followed by Florida, which would eliminate the need for a WDS type technology. Florida replaces sand and dunes promptly after erosion takes place. In South Carolina, it is a struggle to get approval and funding for re-nourishment. So while we wait for re-nourishment, the WDS is a great alternative to protect our homes while being mindful of our ecosystem. The other option, which should not be an option is ecological disaster…buildings falling into the ocean.
Doreen Olsen, Villa #4103
Marc & Mattye Silverman, Villa #1404
Carl & Lollie Harper, Villa #4505