Engineering firm presents findings in Church Creek Basin drainage issues

Residents of the Hickory Farms neighborhood want something done about repeated flooding. (Source: Live 5)
Residents of the Hickory Farms neighborhood want something done about repeated flooding. (Source: Live 5)
SkyTracker 5 drone footage shows flooding in the Bees Ferry Road area in September. (Source: Live 5)
SkyTracker 5 drone footage shows flooding in the Bees Ferry Road area in September. (Source: Live 5)

WEST ASHLEY, SC (WCSC) - An engineering firm presented findings of a study Monday on West Ashley's Church Creek Basin, an area that has been prone to severe flooding for a few years now.

The idea behind the study is to provide ways to improve drainage and prevent another flooding event. The study aimed to review previous studies as well as give ideas for improvements to the limit future flooding and property damage in the area.

Professional Engineer Bob Horner said the company found a culmination of different reasons as to why the area is flooding.

The main problem, Horner said, is topography.

"The basin is very big and very flat," Horner said. "The area has been flooding for more than 50 years."

Horner added with more people and development in the area – that's having an impact as well along with different weather patterns and tidal events.

"Things are just changing," Horner said.

In the presentation, they listed several projects for improvements including:

  • Surge Protection
  • Storm water Pump Station
  • Northeast Basin Improvements
  • Southwest Conveyance & Outfall
  • Hickory Farms Overland Diversion
  • Channel Conveyance Improvements
  • Lake Dotterer Improvements
  • Policy Recommendations

The senior advisor to the mayor, Josh Martin, said there are several different things that they can do like updating the storm water design manual, coming up with capital projects to help with the flow of water or even continuing and extending the "buyout" program that's been approved by FEMA.

Martin said the presentation for council was a condensed version – they will be having a much more elaborate, public presentation on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the West Ashley High School Auditorium. Anyone is welcome to attend.

City Council also voted to pass a 6-month moratorium in 100-year flood plain within the Church Creek Drainage Basin.

Residents of the Hickory Farms subdivision, a part of the basin, say they want answers sooner rather than later.

"Every time there's a downpour that lasts longer than two or three hours, everybody in the neighborhood gets very twitchy," Hickory Farms resident John Ungaro said.

Ungaro has lived in Hickory farms for 13 years now and says he is tired of the flooding.

"We're very angry," he said. "My whole neighborhood is very angry because a lot of the people who live here are not even in a floodplain."

It's a reason the city of Charleston hired an engineering company to take a look at the problems.

An engineer involved in the study said there wasn't one thing in particular causing the flooding, but rather a combination of topography, development and changing weather and tidal patterns.

"We had a feeling that it probably wasn't a smoking gun or silver bullet," Martin said.

The options to fix it -- range from $40 million to $70 million.

"There is a combination of different things that revolve around everything from policy, updates to the storm water design manual, whether it be capital projects to help with the flow of water, whether it be new standards of buildings being elevated," Martin said.

Whatever the answer may be – neighbors are hoping the city takes the recommendations before another weather event happens.

"I think they're suggestions are going to go a long way to solving the problem," Ungaro said. "Whether the city has the will – that's the question."

The engineering company spent six months studying the different areas of the basin and when certain areas flooded.

The basin is currently 80 percent developed according to the Charleston County website. It includes neighborhoods such as Shadowmoss, Hickory Farms and Forest Lakes. A natural drainage channel exists between the outlet under U.S. Highway 61 and the Seaboard Systems Railroad, the site says.

The city believes more development could bring more flooding, which is what prompted a nine-month moratorium on new developments in the area back in February. That ban was set to end this month.

The Shadowmoss neighborhood experienced extensive flooding during Hurricane Irma. The flooding also occurred in 2015 when some residents' homes were reportedly burglarized after they evacuated.

The public will get its first look on Thursday night at West Ashley High School from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

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