Beach Renourishment Program

The heart and soul of Hilton Head Island is the 12 miles of beautiful beach that visitors and residents enjoy year-round. The beach is also the mainstay of the Island's environment and economy, and is why thousands live here and millions more visit.

In order to preserve our beach, an infusion of sand is needed along some of the coast to ensure the sandy shoreline is wide enough for everyone — visitors and residents alike — to play and relax in the surf and sun.

What is beach Renourishment?

Renourishment replaces sand lost to natural erosion and maintains a wide beach to ensure the health of our shoreline.

Why is beach renourishment important?

aeriel before and after of beach

A wider beach safeguards a natural environment for endangered sea turtles and sea birds, and provides extended storm protection for oceanfront homes, villas and businesses. It also allows beach-goers to spread out, ride bikes and bask in the sun.

Hilton Head Island is the second largest barrier island on the East Coast, and most beach erosion is a naturally occurring phenomenon. Geologically, the Island is a "transgressive" relic coastal barrier that has migrated landward over the last several centuries. Controlled by forces of the Port Royal and Calibogue Sound, beach sand moves from the center of the Island toward its ends. The daily ebb and flow of water continually shapes the shoreline.

What is the beach renourishment process?

bulldoxer moving sand piped onto the beach
  • Before a project begins, coastal engineers conduct a sand search to locate a grade of sand that approximates the same size, color and texture of the existing beach. The shoreline is also evaluated and sand is placed to make up for erosion lost from previous years.
  • The new sand is excavated by hydraulic dredge from offshore sites and moved through miles of submerged and floating pipeline, from the ocean floor to the beach.
  • After the mixture of sand and seawater makes it to shore, the water runs back out into the ocean, and bulldozers and other construction machinery construct the elevation and form of the beach with new sand.
house on shoreline in 1990 compared to house on the beach after 2002

How often is beach renourishment needed?

A beach renourishment is necessary every seven to 10 years, depending on weather conditions and storms.

What happens after a beach renourishment project is complete?

Beach renourishment is an ongoing process. There are more than 60 beach monitoring stations that we maintain to observe sand from recent beach renourishment projects. Aerial photos are taken annually to monitor how the coastline changes.

Beach Renourishment Program Summary

  • 10.7 Million cubic yards of sand placed (restoration and renourishment)
  • Atlantic shorefront is 200 wider, on average, than pre-1990 conditions
  • Construction Costs To-Date: $60 Million
  • Value of First Tier Shorefront: $3 Billion

View Our Beach Project History