Consultant hired by neighbors recommends halting James Island development

Updated: Aug. 6, 2020 at 9:16 PM EDT
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JAMES ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) - A new report by a Utah-based hydrology consultant suggests that city and county officials take a second look at recent development projects in the Central Park area of James Island.

Frustrated neighbors, with the help of several groups, hired Dr. Steven Emerman to look at potential impacts of the Central Park and Riverland Oak developments.

They have been worried about the potential flooding these projects could cause.

Based on his findings, Emerman says the stormwater infrastructure system in the area is in poor condition and officials need to fix it first before thinking about new development.

“Really what I was asking is whether the city of Charleston’s storm-water manuals are consistent with new proposed developments, and my answer was no they’re not,” Emerman said.

Emerman said he ended up taking a look at the history of flooding events in the area of these developments over the last five years. His analysis suggests that the probability of flooding is already 100% for 24-hour storms with a return period greater than only 4.9 years. His full report can be found here.

The city of Charleston has been working with the county on a drainage study of the Central Park/Wambaw Creek Area, which is expected to be completed by 2021. Emerman recommends that they wait for the study to be completed and evaluate and implement the recommendations that follow.

“I say first we understand the current drainage infrastructure, then we try to improve it,” Emerman said. “If that works, great. Then we can start talking about new developments.”

For years, neighbors say they have been worried about flooding in their neighborhoods as a result of poor drainage infrastructure and new development.

Frances Henty was one of the James Island residents who took part in hiring Emerman.

“I think it’s time for all the governments to come together and say, ‘Look, here this area has been neglected and moving forward we’re going to make wise choices for our tax payers,‘” she said.

Director of Stormwater Management Matt Fountain said the city is aware of the issues in that area and agree it is a problem.

He said they are working with AECOM, the city’s hired program management consultant to develop projects to improve flooding.

In the meantime, they are continuing to permit development, but he said the development has to comply with stormwater regulations that are currently in place. He added that they have applied all restrictions that they could within the storm-water manual, because of the flooding issue.

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