The Failure of Engineered Stormwater Ponds

The problem is that many of these ponds are failing and causing flooding issues to the new subdivision or to preexisting neighborhoods.
— Liz Pavelick, Save our Soundside

Gulf Breeze, FL: Liz Pavelick sent us this great description of the workings of stormwater ponds. We are quoting her directly in this post: “I mentioned before that the peninsula we live on is nothing more than an ancient sand bar. There were natural wetlands all over the peninsula. We purchased our 1 1/5 acre lot in 2002. At a meeting in 2014 a man from the area stated that all the high and dry land had been purchased and developed years ago and now they were starting to fill in and develop the low lying areas that would flood.

Almost every subdivision that goes in clear cuts the entire tract of land. Then developers are required to put in an "engineered" stormwater pond. Some are wet ponds (always full of water) and others are dry ponds that will hold rainwater. The problem is that many of these ponds are failing and causing flooding issues to the new subdivision or to preexisting neighborhoods.

I've attached pictures of three "engineered" stormwater ponds. The first is a pond that is being put in next to a newly constructed series of storage units. The neighborhood on the other side of the storage units has been experiencing flooding for years and did not want the storage units to go in. They were told this new pond would help. You can see there is no "dirt" in the hole it is just sand. It is still "under construction".

The second picture is a stormwater pond that was put in a subdivision years ago and failed. They now have to replace all the underground pipes, made the pond bigger and will redirect the water to an existing natural pond which feeds into the Santa Rosa Sound. Still "under construction".

The third is an engineered pond that failed in a DSLD Homes development and flooded a pre-existing neighbor. Because the County took over ownership of the pond from DSLD Homes, the County now has to put in drainage ditch easements behind several homes to fix the issue. They have not started on this project yet.

We have had many "engineered" ponds fail, these are only 3 examples. Santa Rosa County is responsible for the maintenance of 350+ stormwater ponds. There is no set schedule for maintenance of these ponds.”

National Academy of Sciences Meets Flood Victims in Brazoria County, TX

We folks are making a huge difference in our communities by meeting with folks like this, who also care about our needs and our causes.
— Kevin McKinney, Flood Victims of Richwood

Brazoria County, TX: Kevin McKinney, leader of the Flood Victims of Richwood, TX, joined a roundtable convened by the National Academy of Sciences last week. Also at the roundtable were representatives from the American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army. Topics discussed were floodplain mapping, development in the floodplains, Lidar data, FEMA temporary housing, pre disaster mitigation funds, and buyouts.

Fill, Build and Flood: Dangerous Development in Flood-Prone Areas

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“You have unchecked development in the flood plain, combined with unprecedented storms and flooding. Too many people are one storm away from catastrophe.
— Harriet Festing

National: Several Higher ground members are quoted in this article on the practice of fill and build, including Ed Browne of Residents Against Flooding in Houston, TX, and Terri Straka of Rosewood Strong in Horry County, SC. Higher Ground’s director, Harriet Festing, is also quoted.

Charleston city councilman wants to stop fill-and-build development

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We used to be concerned that that (fill and build) was disturbing the wildlife and the marshes,” Dustan said. “Now we’re concerned that now it’s destroying our lives, our homes, and our houses.
— Phillip Dustan

CHARLESTON, SC: There was great coverage yesterday by Live 5 News (WCSC) on the move by Councilman Harry Griffin to put an end to fill-and-build development in the city. The ban will be discussed at tonights city council meeting. The article quotes Phil Dustan of Higher Ground member, Lowcountry Flooded States of America.

Help us Ban Fill and Build (+ Flood)

Politicians get elected by money.  If developers put in money, they get a seat at the table. They are down at City Hall all the time. But people like me can’t do that, because we have real jobs.
— Ed Browne, Residents Against Flooding

National: The practice of piling fill dirt on flood-prone land, then constructing housing or other developments on top, needs to be banned. This article published today in US News and World Report explains why. Fill and build is driven by money. Developers can charge a premium for homes near the water. And unbuilt land in the floodplain is cheaper—and more abundant—than on higher ground. These economic realities are driving a vast expansion of development in flood-prone areas. Between 2000 and 2016, the U.S. saw more development in floodplains than outside of them.

There is a major barrier to achieving reform: the powerful and wealthy lobby of developers and builders, who run PACs, fund political campaigns, hold political positions, hire lobbyists, and play golf with the politicians who make the decisions. 

Over the next few weeks and months, we'll highlight the stories of people impacted by fill and build developments, and the fights being played out across the country as residents seek to ban it at local level. Sign up to share your fill and build story, and to receive campaign updates.

Have you been impacted by fill and build developments? Please email separately your photos, drone footage, and other details to We’ll aim to features these developments on our website.

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Flood prone developments continue despite Mayor's worthy words

Charleston, SC: Despite recent hurricanes, significant investment in the Dutch Dialogues (including a trip Netherlands in fall 2018) and worthy words by Mayor Tecklenburg on flooding and sea level rise, a major development is on the city agenda for approval.

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Dr Phil Dustan, member of Lowcountry Flooded States of America, describes the development as a moral hazard that will “put innocent buyers at risk, and threatens neighboring communities.”

The proposed 126-acre ‘River Run’ development on Johns Island will cut across lowland forests, marshlands and a major section of Burden Creek. Dr Dustan says that it “will be built on low land that is exposed to storm surge and rainwater flooding. It will block the flow of flood waters out of Burden Creek placing neighboring communities and much of the Burden Creek Basin at increased flood risk.  And it will add about 2270 vehicle trips per day to River Road.”

Residents have started a petition against the development:

Charleston's Mayoral Debate on Flooding

Charleston, SC: Here are photos from the Mayoral Debate on Flooding co-hosted by Higher Ground member, Groundswell Charleston, last Thursday October 3rd (note the I Flood and I Vote t-shirt!).

How 2 South Carolina communities are fighting collapse after major floods

Horry County, SC: Two Higher Ground communities were referenced in this article in the Post and Courier.

In response to the article, April O’Leary who heads up Horry County Rising says: “Thank you Chloe Johnson with Post and Courier. Last week was tough as developers and related businesses who have a shared vested financial interest attacked flooded families by claiming we are “Enviros” trying to destroy the economy and 25,000 jobs. They couldn’t be further from the truth, we’re trying to prevent our communities and economies from collapsing due to these events. Floods are a natural occurrence and they are only catastrophic if we allow people and property to build in high risk areas where they are in harm’s way. My plea to you all and will always be, to call these entities out for what they are- PROFITS OVER PEOPLE.“

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"People Die Every Day"

Ellicott City, MD. This developer is objecting to stronger rules on development that would make Ellicott City, MD safer. Three people died as a result of the flooding in the city in 2016 and 2018. Does this bother you? Join our Higher Ground Facebook group - the network for flood survivors.

When Flood Survivors, an Attorney and Scientists Join Forces

Gulfport, MS: Residents in the communities of Forrest Heights and Turkey Creek, Gulfport, MS, are fighting a development on wetlands that risks worsening their existing flooding. Thanks to the leadership of the grassroots group, EEECHO, they have requested an evidentiary hearing to challenge the development. Anthropocene Alliance helped secure the pro bono scientific experts and an attorney to lead the work.

Has Flooding Hit Your Finances?

Horry County, SC. April O’Leary, leader of Horry County Rising says “I have partnered with a team of expert economists to develop this flood survey and I need every flooded family in Horry to complete. We have the entire month of October to engage affected families so please share if you know any!”


When a Councilman Becomes a Hero

Charleston, SC: Councilman Harry J. Griffin says These may be two of the most important things I could ever bring to our Council Chamber, and the discussion will begin this upcoming Tuesday night”.

Flood survivors from Lowcountry Flooded States of America are backing his demand to ban fill and build - a practice promoted by developers that is said to contribute to Charleston’s flooding.


Hanging the Banner

Charleston, SC: Getting ready for the Mayoral Debate on Flooding, co-hosted by the flood survivor group, Groundswell Charleston, and the South Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club. It’s tomorrow, October 3rd. 7 PM – 8:30 PM at the MUSC Baruch Auditorium, 284 Calhoun Street.