Dutch Dialogues – a work in progress

Dutch Dialogues – a work in progress
July 16 11:18 2019 Print This Article

The Dutch Dialogues Stormwater Management team interacted with community members Monday night at Crosstowne Church is West Ashley. Residents met with experts at tables with maps of the Church Creek drainage basin and shared observations about what happened during the four flooding events in the basin since 2015. The project is funded by the Historic Charleston Foundation, City of Charleston, and a host of other sponsors. There were more than 150 participants.

The New Orleans-based team is led by the Waggoner and Ball firm and some officials from The Netherlands American Embassy. Mayor John Tecklenburg was elected in November 2015, just months after two major flooding events in the Church Creek basin. In January 2016, he met the Dutch Ambassador at a national mayors conference and learned about how how the Dutch were helping New Orleans fortify its stormwater system in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He suggested to the Ambassador that Charleston could benefit from the Dutch expertise. The country’s population centers are below sea level.

The stormwater team is reviewing a 2017 study conducted by Charleston-based Weston and Sampson and a 2018 hydrological study commission by Crosstowne Church, which has rebuilt several times after major flooding events. Both studies place an emphasis on the need for expanded water storage capacity within the 5000-acre Church Creek basin. The four-acre Bridge Pointe condominium complex in Shadowmoss has been demolished as part of a FEMA buyout program and offers an immediate area for water storage, although no specific plan has been proposed.

The Weston and Sampson study proposed $43 million in engineering improvements in the Church Creek basin. The only one of the six items recommended in the study which has been funded so far is the $500,000 Hickory Farms overland diversion project, which covers 11 acres. Easement procurement is underway for the project, and City Councilman Harry Griffin is optimistic that it could be completed within several months after the procurement is finalized.

Some experts at the Monday gathering believe that the Church Creek basin could be protected without the $26.7 million pumping station called for in the Weston and Sampson study. That would reduce the cost of the needed engineering upgrades to around $16 million. One of the funding sources available for purchasing water storage area is the $210 million greenbelt fund, included in the Charleston County 0.5% transportation sales tax. A flooding mitigation strategy offered Monday was an aggressive tree-planting program. Trees absorb significant amounts of stormwater runoff.