The City of Charleston, South Carolina continues to experience numerous flooding issues. Unfortunately, due to limited financial resources combined with well-publicized inadequate planning, a myriad of disparate opinions, and the inexperience of the current government administration, there remains no clear path on how to protect the critical infrastructure of the Holy City from this on-going and potentially catastrophic environmental dilemma. Furthermore, deferred maintenance has contributed and significantly exacerbated the City’s flooding problem.
The dilemma today is that there are numerous flooding issues to address and not enough financial resources or experienced leadership to address them.
The City of Charleston currently has two specific funding sources dedicated to providing resources to address flooding, (1) the Drainage Fund and (2) Storm Water Fund.
The current expenditures that are funded from the two recurring sources of revenue are the operating expenses for stormwater operations, which are projected at $7.38 million for 2019, and $3.5million in annual debt services payments, associated with the 2012 Stormwater Revenue Bonds, that will continue annually until 2033.
The City has a list of priority drainage projects currently underway that represent funding needs of over $177 million. However, of that $177 million, $123 million is associated with the Spring- Fishbourne Drainage Project. That project is currently $40 million over budget and there are currently no identified funding sources to be able to complete the 5th and final phase of the project. Only roughly $4.5 million of that is associated with maintenance, such as the installation of check valves. In order to fund these projects, the City will have to use all of its current funding resources available, and therefore not be able to fund any other projects until 2025.
Additionally, there are numerous other drainage projects currently identified. Three examples of such projects are the Calhoun West Project that is estimated to cost in excess of $200 million, the Lower Battery Project, that is estimated to cost $50 million and the Church Creek Drainage Basin Project, that is projected to cost $50 million.
During my extensive research, I have also identified what I will refer to as the City’s “Funnel Effect”. After meeting with several very well- regarded local engineers, I’ve identified that there are numerous situations where new developments are actually draining their stormwater off their site and into stormwater pipes that lead to several choke points. For example, there is a recent project that is under development where it was identified that their site was going to drain into (3) 48” pipes, which is certainly sufficient for their runoff. However, the problem is that they further discovered that those (3) 48” pipes connected into (1) 18” pipe, hence the “Funnel Effect”. When I further explored how often this occurred across the City, it was determined that on the peninsula, this happens almost 100% of the time. And off the peninsula in other areas of the City, this happens roughly 70% of the time.
I propose a more structured approach to maintaining our current drainage infrastructure and these will result in an immediate effect on these flooding issues. Additionally, I propose developing a long- term strategic plan that outlines very specific, actionable items that are financially obtainable with measurable and sustainable outcomes. My plan is as follows:
1. A twenty- year strategic plan is necessary to address Charleston’s immediate to long-term issues of flooding and drainage. The plan will start by addressing our immediate opportunity, maintenance AKA ‘the low hanging fruit’. Part of the maintenance plan must include developing a complete inventory of every outfall, pipe, storm drain and ditch that currently exist in the City of Charleston. Once an accurate accounting of the City’s current storm drain system is complete then an annual inspection and maintenance schedule can be completed to ensure that our current storm drainage infrastructure is maintained properly so that it can operate at its fullest potential. Additionally, part of the maintenance schedule will include ensuring that every outfall is inspected and cleaned out at the beginning of every hurricane season.
2. Maintenance easements must be identified, and a schedule developed as necessary for obtaining new easements to ensure the City has access to all the areas necessary to maintain our drainage system. Additionally, the City must work with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to provide a more efficient permitting process for granting permits to the City for the maintenance of our drainage outfalls. Lastly City Council must create a fiscal policy that prioritizes and mandates annual funding for maintenance of all the City’s drainage infrastructure.
The City is currently updating its Stormwater Manual and to ensure a proper outcome it must get input from our local engineering community. Moreover, moving forward the City must work closely with private developments to ensure that each new project provides a detailed plan showing stormwater runoff from its development site and tracks the water flow to the final outfall. When choke points are identified, the City must prioritize the improvements that must be completed to ensure the drainage system continues to function properly.
As a going concern, the best management policies must be implemented including fiscal responsibility, cost-benefit analysis, and implementation of value engineering. The City has a number of very large projects that will require hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to be completed. To ensure the City has adequate resources to complete these projects, work on funding sources must be started immediately and be combined with building strong relationships with Federal, State, and County governments.
No more studies, it’s time for action!
Thank you for visiting my website. I hope I’ve been able to help you understand what is happening in our City today, the issues that we face and most importantly, the solutions that I propose to help solve our major challenges. If you have any additional questions or suggestions, I look forward to hearing from you. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.