Stop blaming flooding on sea level rise!

Stop blaming flooding on sea level rise!
December 31 15:20 2017 Print This Article

Charleston-area elected officials are quick to cite sea level rise as the cause of the flooding damage which has plagued West Ashley since 2015. The Charleston City Council (using transportation sales tax funds authorized by County Council), recently authorized tens of millions in bicycle and pedestrian projects but could not find funding for the drainage upgrades recommended in the Church Creek Drainage Basin Study report. Engineering firm Weston and Sampson estimates that the drainage fix will cost $44 Million. For the record, sea level has been rising about 3 millimeters per year for more than a century (about one foot per hundred years). See graph:

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg hired retired Coast Guard Captain Mark Wilbert as Director of Resilience in 2017.  As efficiency experts Bob and Bob from the 1999 comedy Office Space might ask, “So, Mark, what exactly is it that you do here?”  It might have made more sense to hire a couple of maintenance workers, instead.  There is no evidence that ditches and canals are cleaned out on a regular basis.  Charleston has many storm drains that are clogged solid with debris.  The drainage system does not function as designed.

The Weston and Sampson engineering report has not yet been published, but it has been presented to City Council and at a public meeting at West Ashley High School.  The big ticket items proposed by engineer Bob Horner include a pumping station, about 10 tidal gates and a large retention pond in the undeveloped land beyond the Village Green subdivision.  Horner said that up to 350 properties may have to be considered for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flooding mitigation buyout program, which would involve a city contribution of 25% of the property values.

Harry Griffin, who will by sworn in as a City Councilman Tuesday, January 9, walked the Church Creek basin during the recent campaign.  He said, “I studied our culverts (drainage pipes).  I studied our ditches and went to places within the basin which aren’t easy to access.  What I found was atrocious.  There has been absolute negligence when it comes to maintaining our drainage systems.”

We have a serious problem which impacts thousands of property owners.  Talking about sea level rise or creating new administrative jobs is not going to make conditions better.  We must do the preventive maintenance and invest in the engineering upgrades if we are going to protect residents from severe flooding damage every time there are heavy rains.