Editorial: Charleston’s issues with flooding are getting more real

Sep 26, 2020

Charleston experienced three events last week that made it quite clear that our challenge of living with water is getting more real. Two were obvious: a near record tide Monday that deluged many city streets under sunny skies and a noontime rain bomb Friday that flooded streets even more.

The third was far less dramatic but arguably as important: a virtual water lab meeting held Wednesday, part of the city’s ongoing work on a new comprehensive plan. Experts laid out their preliminary analyses that ultimately will guide decisions on where the city should grow, where its existing buildings must adapt, where sea walls and other protections might be needed and which areas should be left alone. It’s a critical examination that could help determine the future of the city and its residents.

The new comp plan alone won’t change city zoning or update its new stormwater manual, but its recommendations eventually could lead to a dramatic rewriting of where and how people may build. It’s important for residents and property owners to realize this now — while they still can add their voice to the planning process.

The city’s consultants, which include many of the same members who helped with its Dutch Dialogues flooding study last year, have examined the elevations of property within the city and pinpointed their relative vulnerability to heavy rains, rising tides and storm surges. They have examined existing floodplains and which areas within those floodplains, if developed, would be expected to cause problems downstream, as the city has seen around West Ashley’s Church Creek.

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