Charleston residents like meteorologist Neil Dixon of the National Weather Service are extremely concerned — but not surprised — that the city is seeing more and more flooded streets and homes, even when a hurricane isn’t part of the equation.
“Since the ’90s onward, there’s been a pretty noticeable increasing trend in these events,” Dixon said. “Sea level rise, some development issues, and more and more development closer to the water” are all playing a role, according to Dixon.
Led by Susan Lyons, Groundswell Charleston is a grassroots organization of flood victims formed after Tropical Storm Irma in 2017, many of whom had sustained repeated flooding damage to their homes for three years in a row.
“I had to replace the ducts three times underneath my house, but other people had it far worse,” Lyons said.
Groundswell Charleston lobbies for relief from increasingly frequent flood waters that roll in from the harbors and the rivers. Residents see their quality of life being destroyed through diminished property values, exorbitant recovery costs, and prohibitive flood insurance premiums – not to mention the unquantifiable human toll.
The group has two main objectives. They endeavor to work with the city to develop and implement immediate short-term flood-abatement tactics and to develop and fund long-term mitigation strategies. As well, they connect residents with guidance on insurance issues, FEMA regulations, buyout programs, and raising homes.
A controversial abatement strategy by the Army Corps of Engineers proposes protecting the city of Charleston from storm surge flooding by encircling the city’s historic peninsula with an eight-mile seawall and building a 4,000-foot wave attenuating structure in Charleston harbor. Residents fear that the plan would “create a bowl effect, similar to the New Orleans problem, and places a significant part of the city below the water line and at risk of flooding if any of the significant machinery the wall relies on – like the gates and pumps – malfunctions,” according to the Coastal Conservation League.
In the last year, South Carolina passed a bill allowing hospitality taxes to fund flooding mitigation projects, seen by residents as a step in the right direction. As well, the Charleston mayor proclaimed flooding abatement and drainage mitigation the top priorities for his administration. Yet, Groundswell Charleston continues to push for substantive action over pleasant-sounding rhetoric.
“Charleston is waiting. The Atlantic is not.” — Groundswell Charleston member Mark Bloom, in a Post and Courier Op-Ed piece.
Written by Kerri McLean
Halting Bad Development, Nature-Based Solutions
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