Army Corps of Engineers, experts present flood management plan to City of Charleston

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say if Charleston city leaders don’t take action soon, a major storm surge event could be devastating for Downtown Charleston. Those experts along with Dutch Engineers says a significant flooding event could be costly and deadly.

Findings presented to city council Thursday made some changes and improvements to the Seawall battery plan originally proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers in early 2020 to protect the peninsula more efficiently.

The city has been working hand in hand with the groups for roughly two years, the latest study began back in November and recently wrapped up. The study looked at storm surge and flooding projections to evaluate potential impacts.

“It’s critically important because you know it’s only going to get worse from a sea level rise perspective,” says Daniel Flessas who serves as an Emergency Management Specialist with the City of Charleston.

City leaders, experts and engineers all say flood protection is a race against the clock as weather officials predict high tides over eight feet are increasing in occurrence.

“The prediction is that in 2030 we will see 10 to 20 (high tides of 8ft+) and by 2050 we will see 35 to 90 a year,” says Mark Wilbert, Special Policy Manager to Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg. “These predictions are coming from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In early 2020, the Army Corps of Engineers proposed more than 8 miles of protective perimeter wall around the peninsula. They say without some form of protection being constructed, impacts from storms could be deadly.

“100% of roads on the peninsula would be inaccessible, 90% of our critical facilities would be vulnerable including our three major hospitals,” says Wilbert.

The last findings made slight changes to the wall, constructing more lower T-form battery wall with additional pump stations around the city for a quicker response.

“Many of the police, healthcare and fire stations are at risk due to a surge event,” says Wes Wilson who serves as a project manager with the Army Corps of Engineers. “With the wall in place the risk is reduced in all categories.”

With the frequency of storm surge events and higher tides on the rise, experts say a wall could prevent feet of water from hitting downtown streets and save the city and residents the cost of devastating damage.

“If you build a twelve foot wall, you will save four billion dollars in damages,” says Wilson.

For Flessas, he says it’s better for the city and resident to be prepared for what’s to come rather than be caught off guard by strengthening flooding.

“Look at the weather three times a day, watch the weather three times a day because you never know what it’s going to do,” says Flessas.

No action was taken by Charleston City Council on Thursday. The findings were presented during a council workshop meeting.

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