What do you do about 800 acres in the 100 year flood plain

03 Oct What do you do about 800 acres in the 100 year flood plain

Some facts:

The Mossy Oaks and Royal Oaks area of the City of Beaufort consist of about 800 acres;  about 50% of the city’s population live in the geographical area of the city.

Like most parts of the City, these neighborhoods, suffered serious flooding and damage to homes and personal property. Because of Matthew, this is the second time some of the same properties and families have suffered.

An important fact is that the 800 acres in the 100 year flood plain which requires the important stormwater management apparatus. Owned by the City, the County, the State, the School District, Beaufort Jasper Water and Sewer Authority and private property owners —  ditches, culverts swales, pipes, retention ponds must be monitored, maintained and repaired on a regular basis. This is has not been done.

Three governmental jurisdictions own and are responsible for maintaining their assets, but none have the financial resources to maintain the roads and storm water collection and distribution system.  This means that during heavy rains and storms the systems fail.

That said, the city does all we can to keep up with maintenance and when possible the county and state help with the smaller problems.

Last week, representatives of the state, county and city appointed a multi multijurisdictional task force to define engineering needs, find the money to do the engineering and then chase down an estimated (pre-engineering) $3 million fix. This is a first for all responsible to sit at one table and agree at the highest levels to collaborate.

I know it is not soon enough for those whose properties have been damaged.  I also know that small improvements can be made without waiting for a plan and funding.  As an example, it does not take a study to realize that the duck pond at first boulevard and battery creek road needs to be dredged because it cannot hold the water it was intended to hold.  But it does take approvals from the Office of Coastal Resource Management which I am told in the past would not approve dredging.  As another example, it does not take a study to realize that unmanaged drainage from Beaufort Middle School overloads the ditches at the top of Jane Way causing the street and all of the lots between the Middle School and First Blvd to shoulder the burden of sheets of water flowing down to a pond that does not have the capacity to accept the water which then overflows over Battery Creek Road because the slough off of Battery Road — which is supposed to accept excess from the pond — is either not discharging as it should because the pipes are clogged or the high tides overpowers the discharge back into the community rather than into the creek. (The City applied for a grant to fix this problem but no word yet.)

This is a very complicated problem that can no longer be avoided.  Fortunately, I believe that for the fist time since I was elected to the SC House of Representatives in 1992, all levels of government are going to work together to take on this important challenge and similar challenges throughout the city.

Before closing I have to acknowledge the even the most perfected stormwater management system could have handled the 3 – 4 feet of storm surge over 9 ft high tides and the approximately ten or so inches of rain that came with Irma.  Higher tides, more frequent and voluminous rain storms, silting in tidal creeks and other factors mean flooding could be the new normal.  We must first fix the broken collection systems and discharges and then we are going to have to consider managing the higher water that floods neighborhoods and increasing amounts of our historic downtown.