Johns Island drainage project to receive $4.6M from state

The South Carolina Office of Resilience has announced they will be giving several million dollars to the City of Charleston to improve drainage on Johns Island.
Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 3:57 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 20, 2023 at 7:15 PM EDT
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JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Office of Resilience has announced they will be giving several million dollars to the City of Charleston to improve drainage issues affecting around 500 acres of Johns Island.

Stormwater Management Director Matthew Fountain said Monday the city is trying to build a naturalized area and a new stream near the homes of the Barberry Woods neighborhood off Maybank Highway to reduce flooding.

“Getting this grant in helps close the funding gap,” Fountain said. “We’ve seen some huge cost increases over the last three to four years as everybody knows in construction, especially.”

Fountain said the $4.6 million grant from the state will cover about half of the project’s $10 million price tag. He added the city has invested a couple million dollars alone buying up nearby vacant properties.

Neighbors also shared videos of how extreme the flooding was during Hurricane Ian in Barberry Woods, with one neighbor who could be seen taking his children on a kayak ride along the street.

Fountain said the state’s grant money will help cover some of the construction costs, including tree clearing, digging out soil and reshaping the land. The project also calls for a 20-to-25-acre area complete with walking trails.

“The water can basically act like in a natural wetland system over the top of the stream banks and hold in the wetland areas instead of being in people’s roads and streets,” Fountain said.

A few years ago, the city, in conjunction with the Dutch embassy, brought over experts from the Netherlands, Europe and across the country to recommend ways to address flooding. Fountain said this project was one of those recommendations.

“How do you restore the ability of the land to handle the water like it used before you basically did all this development in the area,” Fountain said. “This project is directly looking at how do we take land that could be developed into something – commercial or homes – and basically convert it back into wetlands and streams like it would have been hundreds of years ago potentially to help manage the flooding challenges that are currently affecting the developed properties around it.”

Neighbors like Brian Mack said they are glad a potential solution is underway.

“We get a lot of the drainage from neighborhoods up the road, and it tends to pool down here in the middle of the road and come out toward our house and the back of the neighborhood,” Mack said.

Mack said his neighbors have to prepare in case of heavy rain, so they’re not stuck.

“Some cars have to park in the front and either walk barefoot through or put galoshes on just to get to their homes,” Mack said.

Fountain said he expects to receive these state funds in the next month or so, and they’re on track to start construction in about a year to a year and a half.

“It’ll take a little bit of time, but upon completion of the project, one of the advantages of something like this is you’ll see immediate improvements,” Fountain said.