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Church Creek Drainage Basin Study Is Wide-reaching

rising tide-john steinberger

September 28, 2017
By John Steinberger | Contributing Writer

Church Creek Drainage Basin Study consultant Weston & Sampson held a community outreach meeting Thursday at Citadel Mall’s Center Court with more than 200 in attendance. Disputes over the physical boundaries of the basin were brought up many times during the question and answer period. Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg and Charleston City Councilmen Dean Riegel, Rodney Williams and Marvin Wagner were in attendance

Weston & Sampson project manager Bob Horner, a James Island resident, discussed the numerous community outreach meetings held to date, the e-mail input from residents affected by flooding, and the field surveys and aerial photos which have contributed to the study. He also cited State Senator Sandy Senn’s collaboration with the South Carolina Department of Transportation to survey drainage pipes with robotic cameras. Horner was met with applause when he stated, “The Church Creek basin is currently over-capacity.”

Over-capacity means that the basin, which runs along the Bees Ferry Rd. corridor and Ashley River Rd. from Pierpont to north of Village Green, fills up more quickly than it can drain, which has led to multiple flooding events since 2015. Among the solutions Horner offered were diverting the flow of stormwater runoff in the basin, adding new drainage channels, installing tidal surge gates and pumping stations, upgrading existing drainage culverts and improving maintenance efforts to remove debris.

Horner displayed a graphic showing the flow pattern known to exist in the Church Creek basin and the currently understood boundaries. During the citizen question and answer session, residents pointed to areas outside of the boundaries shown in the graphic which they contend drain into the basin, including Carolina Bay, Longbranch Creek, the Bees Ferry Landfill, and the proposed Long Savannah development, which extends from Bees Ferry Road to Ashley River Road.

The graphic displayed for the basin flow pattern showed that large portions of Long Savannah drain into Church Creek. Councilman Marvin Wagner disputed that, stating that the proposed development drains into Rantowles Creek. He later showed me a map of the area and plans by the Long Savannah developer to install drainage diversions to Rantowles Creek and the Stono River. Wagner also told me that the developer intends to preserve the wetlands areas within Long Savannah’s boundaries. The proposed development is flanked by the 1600 acre Bulow County Party.

Weston & Sampson will issue its findings and recommendations to the City of Charleston on Monday, Oct. 30. The final report will include cost estimates for drainage upgrades, which could get into hundreds of millions if they are all implemented. A second round of community outreach meetings will be conducted explaining the report’s recommendations and the costs involved in implementing them.

The “solutions” phase of the drainage project will involve multiple jurisdictions. A lot of the property in the drainage basin lies in unincorporated areas of Charleston County. A lot of the storm drain system is maintained by the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT). Sen. Sandy Senn recently accompanied an SCDOT crew while surveying drainage pipes. All jurisdictions, including the federal government, should be looked at to provide funding sources for the drainage upgrades.

Many in the Citadel Mall audience were skeptical of the permitting process. The City of Charleston holds its Technical Review Committee (TRC) hearings on weekday mornings in a small office with only enough room for City staff and representatives from the developer. The TRC addresses the impact a proposed development would have on drainage and traffic. The process would be more transparent if hearings would be moved to the evening in the larger meeting room used by the Design Review Board (DRB), which addresses architecture, landscaping, lighting, and other aesthetic issues. The DRB also allows public input.

The Church Creek basin is currently under a moratorium for new construction, which expires at the end of November. Horner stated that the Harmony development project on Church Creek was not permitted before the moratorium went into effect. Many residents who spoke at the meeting supported extending the moratorium until the drainage problem is fixed. You can track the drainage study at ChurchCreekBasinStudy.com.

John Steinberger is the editor-in-chief of LowcountrySource.com. To contact him, email John@LowcountrySource.com.


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