‘We have to prepare’: City shares plan to prevent flooding on peninsula

Published: Sep. 1, 2023 at 4:50 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2023 at 6:34 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - With the sea level expected to rise 14 inches by 2050, the City of Charleston is formulating a plan to prevent catastrophic flooding on the peninsula.

The City of Charleston’s Chief Resilience Officer Dale Morris said the flooding the city experienced during Idalia could happen several times a month in 20 to 25 years.

“If we anticipate those kinds of events occurring three, four, five times a month in the future, we better do something about it now or we’re going to lose a large portion of the peninsula,” Morris said.

Morris said the city is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to build an elevated edge around the peninsula, stretching from Wagener Terrace to just North of the Ravenel Bridge.

He said it would be around the same height as the current High Battery, with a deck at around 10 feet of land elevation.

The projected cost of the project is $1.3 billion, but Morris said the Federal Government would cover around 65% of that.

“So, should we try to move forward with this project and see if we can make it work or do we just accept this as occurring?” Morris said. “We know what’s going to happen, we have to prepare for it because it takes so long.”

Right now, the city is negotiating a design agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers that’s expected to take an additional one to three months. From there, Morris said the agreement will go to the City Council and up the chain of command for the Army Corps of Engineers.

If all goes as planned, the city could start the design phase next spring. Morris said the first phase of design for the West side of the peninsula could take up to two years before heading back to City Council for approval.

It’s not only city officials that are concerned about the impacts of rising sea levels.

The General Manager of The Establishment on Broad Street, Brian Jarusik, said the flooding from Wednesday’s storm is not sustainable for the long term because of how badly it impacted business.

“I can firmly say something needs to be done in the positive, what that is, we defer to the experts on that one,” Jarusik said. “If this is something we’re going to see moving forward, we will be financially hit with that.”

It’s not only economic impacts that have residents concerned.

“This great history living on the water won’t be there to be appreciated in the future,” Brian Starks, a peninsula resident said.