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No Man Is An Isle

Flooded residents of Capri Isle are not looking to the government for help

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October 27, 2017
By Bill Davis | News Editorl

It is perhaps no surprise that the residents of the Capri Isles neighborhood have been experiencing a sharp uptick in flooding issues of late.

One, every other part of West Ashley has been struggling with drainage issues since Hurricane Joaquin, the  “1,000-year storm,” Hurricane Matthew, and most recently Hurricane Irma.

Two, unlike the perpetually soggy inland tracts of the Church Creek Basin off Bees Ferry Road, Capri Isles is literally surrounded by water on three sides — specifically, a button-hooked and man-made tributary of the Stono River. It is located at the left bend of Wappoo Road before the street trundles back to the Edgewater Park neighborhood.

And three, where neighborhoods like Bridge Pointe are clamoring for the federal government, or the state, or recently even the county to buy up their homes, not everyone in Capri Isles is sold on turning over their private drainage issues to public backhoes.

Here’s the rub: the tiny peninsula that makes up the neighborhood utilizes drainage pipes outlets that were built ages ago by the developers of the neighborhood. Emphasis on the word “ages.”

As such, they tend to silt over, thanks in large part to how the river flows, gains, and recedes. And since they were built by developers, when an outlet breaks down, then roads, yards, and sometimes houses get flooded.

Flooding here can be at its worse when a storm hits at high tide, as all the outlets let out into the Stono. And if the tide is high, then back washes the runoff. And if there is a storm surge raising the river higher than usual, then it gets worser-er.

Making things more complicated, Capri Isles is a miasma of boundary lines, with some homes in the county, others in the city, and most in the St. Andrews Public Service District. This could mean a perfect fight over jurisdiction, purview, and responsibility.

PSD board chairman John DeStefano’s roots are deep here. He has lived in Capri Isles for the past decade in the neighborhood where his wife grew up, and many of his neighbors he already got to know when he first started dating his wife decades ago.

Last Friday, DeStefano took a day off from commercial real estate to stay home and meet with a contractor inspecting his house for flood damage from Irma.

“I’m worried: he’s taking longer than he has in the past, and that could mean more money,” laughs DeStefano, whose home has experienced various levels of flooding in the last year. Matthew cost him $12,000, and he still doesn’t know how much Irma is going to cost.

“We are in a V-zone, same as front beach Folly,” says DeStefano, who says his neighborhood’s woes are different from those in the basin, and are to be blamed on “Mother Nature and location.”

“If you live near the airport, you’re going to hear planes,” he says. “Likewise, if you live on the water and Mother Nature gets riled up, you are going to feel Mother Nature.”

County Councilman Brantley Moody says he had been hearing from his constituents in the neighborhood — those not represented by Marvin Wagner, on City Council or by DeStefano in the PSD – that they wanted the county’s help.

As such, Moody says he reached out a few months ago and offered to see what could be done. Calls turned from a trickle to a torrent following Irma. But first, Moody told the neighbors that the county needed legal permission, an easement, before they could get to studying the situation.

That didn’t sit well with every neighbor, some of whom were concerned with how the county would leave their yards and sheds and driveways after their tractors and crews left.

“I understand their reticence: I’m the guy saying, ‘Hey, there, we’re from the government and we’ve come to help.’”

“The problem is,” says DeStefano, “the county can’t even snake a camera down a pipe without an easement.” And because the pipes are all on private property, the county is not required to fix the situation.

DeStefano wants to work with the county, get the proper easements, and fix all the drainage issues beyond the roughly four clogging outlets that were initially identified.

He took part in a recent meeting between most of the residents of Capri Isles and the county, and said that some ground was gained on an agreement regarding easements.

Jim Armstrong, the deputy county administrator in charge of public works, is ready to begin studying the issue. He says he likes the idea of expanding the original scope of the work to include all the issues so that it gets done right.

“Whatever we get done, it won’t happen overnight; it’s going to take a while,” says Armstrong, who describes the potential project as difficult.

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