The Advocates: Charleston Peninsula Perimeter Protection

In 2018, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) began the Charleston Peninsula Coastal Flood Risk Management Study to investigate coastal storm impacts on the Charleston Peninsula. In April 2020, the USACE published a draft Feasibility Report and Environmental Assessment (FR/EA), which identified several potential storm risk reduction measures, including a perimeter storm surge wall, pump stations and nonstructural measures. In March 2021, the study furthered transitioned to an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which enabled the USACE to define mitigation measures, update the project analysis and seek additional public comment. Ultimately, the study will conclude with a final detailed report to Congress in the summer of 2022.

In response to public input, several significant changes have occurred to optimize the tentatively selected plan. These changes include a decrease in the estimated project cost from $1.75 billion to $1.1 billion, an increased benefit-cost-ratio from 2.2:1 to 10.2:1, the addition of living shorelines, a reduction of wetland impacts, the modeling of impacts to surrounding areas and a refined interior drainage analysis.

The City of Charleston is currently debating whether to enter the next phase of the process, known as Preconstruction, Engineering and Design (PED). During PED, USACE and the City complete the detailed engineering, technical studies and design needed to begin construction of the project. Specific questions about location, construction detail and potential enhancements will be studied and finalized during the PED.

The Chamber was asked by Mayor Tecklenburg to offer comment on whether the city should begin the PED phase. In response, the Chamber held a Business In Your Backyard event on October 19, 2021, to present the facts to Chamber membership. Subsequently, Dale Morris, the Chief Resilience Officer of the City and Councilman Mike Seekings both made presentations to the Regional Policy Committee and the Business Advocacy Committee.

After review and discussion, the Regional Policy Committee voted to recommend that the City move into the PED Phase. After reviewing the recommendation of the Regional Policy Committee, hearing additional information and further deliberations, the Business Advocacy Committee voted that the City of Charleston begin the PED process for the Peninsula Perimeter Protection proposal and fund its share of year one of the PED Process.

In reaching this decision, the BAC stated:

“The business community wants the best long-term protection from storm surge possible for the peninsula consistent with Charleston’s economic and cultural goals and resources to address sea level rise and other climate impacts. Funding of the surge wall should also be consistent with the City’s plans for resilient infrastructure development and the alternatives to fund those projects over time. At each step in the process the city should evaluate the just completed studies and plans and engage the public and stakeholders for feedback on the same before approving any funding for the next step.”

The recommendations of the Regional Policy Committee and Business Advocacy Committee were presented, in turn, to the Executive Committee and Chamber Board. After further discussion and deliberations, the Executive Committee and Board both voted to support the City of Charleston entering the first year of the PED process, contingent upon the USCACE decision to amend the peninsula perimeter protection to include the lands of the S.C. Ports Authority.

Going forward, the Chamber will continue its participation in the process on behalf of the business community and will vet the project on an annual basis before council’s vote to additional allocate funds. If you are interested in participating in this process, please let us know. If you would like to view potential design renderings, please click the following link.

An early Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! We are grateful to have engaged members like you that are working alongside us to resolve our region’s toughest issues.

Bailey Vincett
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