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SC Senate seeks regular money to put more sand on beaches

Convention Of States South Carolina
Jeffrey Collins/AP
FILE PHOTO - State Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Isle of Palms, discusses his support of a resolution calling for a convention to propose a balanced budget and term limit amendments to the U.S. Constitution on Wednesday, March 9, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

The state Senate may soon take up a bill that would provide money on a regular basis to help pump sand onto eroding South Carolina beaches.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Chip Campsen would take 25% of all entertainment admission taxes and put them into the beach renourishment fund. That would be about $9 million each year, The Post and Courier reported.

Local governments would have to match any money given away from the fund which would be supervised by the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

"It's very clear we need a systematic and deliberate process to fund beach renourishment" as rising sea levels cause more destruction, the Republican from the Isle of Palms told the newspaper.

The tax is collected at amusement parks, golf courses, movie theaters, museums, nightclubs and sporting events and Campsen said it makes sense to have visitors pay some of the upkeep costs of beaches, which are one of South Carolina's biggest tourism assets.

Campsen's bill passed a subcommittee last week and is certain to be approved by the full Fish Game and Forestry Committee, which he chairs. From then, it would head to the Senate floor.

And Campsen's idea is at least being listened to by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Harvey Peeler. The Gaffney Republican has questioned before why the state spends tax money to pump sand from the ocean floor onto the beach, only to have it wash away again.

Campsen has at least made Peeler rethink his position.

"I'm listening to him," Peeler said of Campsen. "It's not a hard 'no.'"

The House budget passed last week includes $7.5 million to put more sand on Edisto Beach in a joint project between the town and the state. Currently, projects are funded by the state individually as they come in.

A similar bill creating the renourishment fund was introduced by Democratic Rep. Spencer Wetmore of Folly Beach but has not received a hearing.

"I think everyone recognizes the importance of investing in that," Wetmore said. "We generate a ton of money on our beaches."