Mayor, council urge state to establish funding source for beach renourishment
By Pat Dowling|
North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley and members of the North Myrtle Beach City Council joined with other coastal leaders to visit Columbia on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 to urge the state of South Carolina to establish a dedicated funding source for beach renourishment. The mayor and council members participated in a Senate subcommittee hearing chaired by Sen. Harvey Peeler that questioned whether or not the state should continue to help fund beach renourishment. Discussions were also held with South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Duane Parrish.
Mayor Hatley joined with City Council members to encourage the state to continue to partner with coastal cities and the federal government in funding beach renourishment, emphasizing that continued state participation in the funding of beach renourishment is an investment that is critical to the continued economic success of South Carolina’s coastal cities and counties and the state as a whole.
The mayor and council members provided Senator Peeler and Director Parrish with information showing that a recent Coastal Carolina University study shows that the Grand Strand tourism industry alone annually generates about $7 billion of economic activity, accounts for 83,000 jobs and annually generates at least $485 million in state and local taxes. When one considers the amount that the state invests in beach renourishment, and the tax revenue that is returned directly to the state because of it, it is clear that the state’s investment in the cost of beach renourishment yields a significant return.
The mayor and council members pointed out that tourism is South Carolina’s primary, most lucrative industry, and the lion’s share of that business occurs along its coast. Without question, South Carolina’s beaches are its primary tourism draw. Without healthy, systematically renourished beaches, South Carolina’s tourism industry overall will be devastated, and that will have a huge impact not only on coastal cities and counties but also on the state’s economy and its annual revenue.
When beaches are not renourished, tourists will leave South Carolina for other states that offer healthy beaches, tens of thousands of jobs will be lost, real estate values will seriously decline, and businesses will close. Worse still, the state will lose hundreds of millions of dollars in various forms of tax revenues, further jeopardizing what is already a challenging revenue picture for South Carolina.
Mayor Hatley and council members also noted that South Carolina residents who may not reside on South Carolina’s coast are still heavily invested in second homes, rental homes, businesses and other ventures on the coast. When beaches are not renourished, and coastal tourism declines, their considerable coastal investments also suffer, and the negative economic impact that they experience will find its way home to the mid-state and upstate communities where they reside in the form of reduced personal expenditures and more.
While recognizing the need for budgetary responsibility, Mayor Hatley and council members emphasized that the state’s monetary partnership with its cities and counties and the federal government in beach renourishment is not an unrewarded “expense”— it is an investment that is always recouped by the state many times over.