When will flooding really be a priority?

When will flooding really be a priority?
July 21 18:34 2018 Print This Article

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg wrote on his official Facebook page earlier in the week that flooding (prevention) was his top priority. If that were truly the case, money would have been allocated in the 2018 budget to improved the city’s stressed drainage system. That didn’t happen. The budget did include $6 million for a 1.5 mile bicycle path downtown. The recommended $44 million in drainage improvements for the Church Creek Drainage Basin were completely unfunded.

Tecklenburg did hire retired Coast Guard engineer Mark Wilbert as Chief Resilience Officer, although it is unclear what that title actually means. Tecklenburg says that Wilbert will help Charleston cope with the effects of rising sea level. NOAA records show that the sea level in Charleston harbor has risen an average of about 3 millimeters per year since 1900, a rate of about one foot per century. That is not the cause of recent flooding events. Failure to maintain the drainage systems and allowing development in the wetlands are the primary causes.

Tensions are rising as hundreds of homeowners experienced flooding damage on Friday during a steady rainstorm. Thousands of people were not able to get out of their neighborhoods until late in the morning. At the monthly coffee held by City Councilman Peter Shahid at Charles Towne Landing, Charlestowne Estates II resident Robert Harleston described how a drainage ditch on his street overflowed three times during the past four weeks and flooded his garage. Harleston says he has been asking the city to look into the problem for nine years to no avail. He remarked, “It’s frustrating when people keep complaining and nothing gets done.” West Ashley realtor John Cowan noted that long after the rain stopped, many drainage ditches remained topped off.

Shahid shared his constituents’ frustration and said that action must be taken. He said, “Obviously, our (drainage) system didn’t work. We should be able to fix this.” Shahid called for a preventive maintenance schedule to inspect the drainage system on a periodic basis and take corrective action where required. The city could publish in its weekly e-mail newsletter which neighborhoods would be inspected during the following week and ask residents to e-mail drainage concerns to the public works department in advance. The city currently has a drainage hotline number (843-724-7311) for people to report drainage system problems which they observed during the July 20 rainstorm.

We need the Mayor and other City Council members to join Shahid in calling for the Public Works department to establish a drainage maintenance schedule, publish it and stick to it. Stormwater drainage fees were increased 33% in 2018, and it is not clear where the extra funding is going. We don’t need another study. We need the people on the city payroll to do their jobs and protect properties from flooding damage every time there is a heavy rain. The Mayor and six Councilmen are up for re-election in November 2019. If they can’t fix the drainage system, voters need to find someone else who will.