The infrastructure bank can’t be used for flood mitigation

The infrastructure bank can’t be used for flood mitigation
January 11 13:22 2019 Print This Article

The Coastal Conservation League is a non-profit which has opposed the completion of the Mark Clark Expressway (I-526) ever since it was proposed in 2007.  In an amended contract with Charleston County and SCDOT Thursday, the SC Transportation Infrastructure Bank board re-affirmed its $420 million commitment to fund the project. Coastal Conservation League has been telling its supporters that the $420 million should have been used on flooding mitigation instead. That is not an authorized use of infrastructure bank funds.

On the infrastructure bank website, its stated purpose is “to select and assist in financing major qualified projects by providing loans and other financial assistance … for construction and improving highway and transportation facilities necessary for public purposes …” The infrastructure bank was created in 1997 behind the leadership of State Senator Arthur Ravenel. Ravenel’s reason for running for Senate in 1996 was to find a funding source for a replacement for the two aging bridges connecting Charleston and Mt. Pleasant. The infrastructure bank’s first project was providing a $325 million dollar grant for what became the Ravenel Bridge, which opened in 2005.

The Coastal Conservation League has not been a vocal opponent of the practice of filling and paving wetlands, which has been a major source of flooding in the Lowcountry. A local funding source is available to deal with flood mitigation. The $2.1 Billion transportation sales tax approved by Charleston County voters in 2016 includes $210 million for acquiring and conserving “green belt” land. Part of the 2017 Church Creek Drainage Basin Study called for a $1.9 land acquisition for the North Basin Reservoir north and west of the Village Green subdivision. The construction phase of the reservoir would cost another $2 million, and it could potentially be used for recreation. If the Coastal Conservation League is truly interested in flood mitigation, it should use its clout to pursue that solution.