Clogged Drainpipe at Bees Ferry Canal
Dozens of homeowners who have been devastated by recent flooding events in West Ashley showed up at the Charleston City Council meeting Tuesday at Grace on the Ashley church to voice their frustration. Some have seen their properties flooded three times in the past 14 months.
A common refrain from the flood victims was that the City of Charleston has allowed too many building permits in wetlands areas, preventive maintenance isn’t being performed on the existing drainage system and engineering improvements are needed to prevent flooding there in the future. Many homeowners in the Hickory Farms subdivision cited the design of West Ashley Circle as the reason for the recurring flooding in their neighborhood.
Shadowmoss Plantation resident Susan Welborn said, “More development will only make things worse.” She cited a request she made in 2013 for the city to clear out a clogged drainage ditch along the golf course and that the work was never done. “We’re not in this situation because of a 1000-year flood (the description used by government officials for the October 2015 flooding event).”
Hickory Farms homeowner Gary Leonard, who is a candidate for Charleston County School Board, noted that fixing the drainage problem does not appear to be a priority for City Council. “Many residents are crying out for help,” he said. “It’s not a bike lane or a downtown hotel project. It’s a quality of life issue.”
Several homeowners cited a meeting held in December 2015 at Drayton Hall elementary school to discuss the flooding events in August and October of that year. They expressed that their concerns at the meeting haven’t been addressed. Randy Harley from Hickory Farms stated, “None of my (written) questions from that meeting have been answered. Not a darn thing has been done about it (the drainage problems).” He noted that his neighborhood never flooded before Bees Ferry Road was widened and West Ashley Circle was constructed.
Several residents from Bridge Pointe condominiums in Shadownmoss, which have been damaged by flooding four times since 2008, spoke about their concerns. Bob Lew said, “Nothing has been done to improve the drainage at Bridge Pointe.” He noted that the two ponds that surround the community have never been dredged. He suggested that the Bridge Point homeowners association is considering a lawsuit against the City of Charleston.
Several homeowners who have experienced multiple property damage incidents due to flooding described feeling of anxiety every time it rains. A few even expressed concern about their ability to ever sell their homes. The city is applying for a second time to get a federal disaster grant which would pay homeowners market value for their properties and then demolish the properties.
Mayor John Tecklenburg vowed that the city staff will “walk every foot of ditch and pipe in the Church Creek drainage basin.” He also said he would ask City Council to fund a new engineering study for the drainage system in the 2017 budget. City Councilmen Dean Riegel, who represents most of the flooding victims who spoke at the meeting, expressed that overdevelopment in West Ashley was a major cause of the damage. “There is no doubt in my mind that all of this massive development and filling in the wetlands caused this problem,” Riegel said. He also called on Representative Mark Sanford and the rest of the South Carolina Congressional Delegation to assist in getting federal grant money to help the multiple flood victims.