Horry County residents didn’t wait on the 400-page Floodwater Commission findings to tell them how to start protecting our waterway communities from future flooding.
They were already doing the hard work on the ground and in the ditches, canals, swamps and creeks as the final report was being presented to Gov. Henry McMaster in Conway on Friday.
It complicates matters enough when Hurricanes like Florence knock down trees and other debris into those tributaries, blocking the paths intended to lead the torrential rains away from our homes.
Bu some folks have been making the problems even worse by using our watershed as a dumping ground for their garbage.
Hundreds of volunteers spent Horry Service Day pulling out a discarded couch,
a mattress, children’s toys and other junk from underneath dead trees and debris.
That’s in addition to the tons of garbage bagged and removed.
“Life is not a spectator sport, you can’t leave things to other people,” McMaster
told volunteers working on the ground in Socastee.
“If you live in the State of South Carolina, this state belongs to you. So treat it as if it were your home, because it is your home,” McMaster said.
Individual volunteers, businesses, members of the State Guard, dozens of county and city employees along with Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune and Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy gathered in Loris, Bucksport, Socastee and Conway by the hundreds to clear the waterways.
The county solid waste authority hauled enormous dumpsters to each site, and
say we’ll soon know the weight of all the garbage collected.
Whatever that number is, it’s simply unacceptable.
Seriously people, being a litterbug is so 1970s.
Nearly 1,800 homes flooded in Horry County after Hurricane Florence last year, which came on the heels of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 that flooded close to 1,200 homes.
It took nearly a week for floodwaters to recede from many homes.
There was so much water with seemingly no way to escape, it was as if the ocean itself had been damed.
“I can’t describe to you what it’s like to watch the river take over your home — many of you, unfortunately, know that feeling,” state Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford told those gathered in her hometown of Socastee.
“It’s a very devastating and helpless feeling,” Crawford said.
“Some folks were still rebuilding our homes from Hurricane Matthew, and just when we thought we dodged a bullet with Hurricane Florence, the forecasters started telling us how much water we were going to get after the storm sat over North Carolina for four days and dumped 11 trillion gallons of water,” Crawford said.
Crawford is a member of the flood commission, whose home with husband and Horry County Councilman Cam Crawford flooded after Hurricane Florence.
She told the governor how her community came together to pack U-hauls and trailers to get people and their belongings to storage areas on higher ground.
Socastee High School students organized sandbag stations and filled more than 100,000 bags for their neighbors, she said.
“It was very heartwarming to see the community come together during that storm,” Crawford said. “We knew that rainwater had to go somewhere, and it was making its way through our rivers and coming here.”
Getting hit with two record-setting floods along the Waccamaw and Intracoastal Waterway in as many years has left many residents on edge.
Even those who don’t live near waterways are worried their houses will flood next.
Considering the constant drumbeat of dire warnings we are all doomed to destruction from climate change and rising sea levels, who can blame them for their fears?
And it’s not just the adults who are wringing their hands, our own children are being led to believe by youth activist Greta Thunberg that the human race is on the verge of extinction because of climate change.
This year’s hurricane season is coming to a close with only minimal damage in Horry County after Hurricane Dorian side-swiped the coast.
Yet the fact remains, we are coastal residents who have chosen to live in the path that hurricanes have taken for centuries.
Gov. McMaster’s Floodwater Commission invested considerable time and research to address the challenges associated with flooding and extreme weather systems, and recommended numerous actions be taken.
“It is vital to mitigate flooding to lessen the negative impacts to our state’s economy in order to facilitate growth, promote tourism and assist communities and businesses struggling from repeated flooding events, and protect the health and wellbeing of our citizens,” the final report said.
We’ve listed those recommendations below, and here is the link for folks who want to read the entire report.
Yet it was the simplest recommendation of all from McMaster himself that is just as important — everyone must do their part to keep ditches, waterway paths and swamps clear for floodwaters to make their way to the ocean.
“There are so many opportunities for things that need to be done, we can literally change the projection of the history of our state to make it stronger and better for all by doing precisely what
you’ve done today,” McMaster said.
“Clean it up, take care of it, and be proud of it, because it’s the best place in the whole world to live and raise a family,” McMaster said.
“On behalf of the other five million proud, happy, South Carolinians, thank you very much for what you do,” McMaster said.
Here is the summary of the 10 key recommendations presented by the Floodwater Commission:
1. Continue and enhance development of operational models for addressing deferred maintenance of the state’s drainage system. Various stakeholder groups are being engaged for feedback on other flood and drainage projects. To date, the initial draft contains 244 projects from 31 counties and will be ongoing.
2. Incentivize the use of green infrastructure as a cost-effective approach for managing and reducing stormwater at its source, through such methods as tree canopies, stormwater tree trenching, stormwater basins and stormwater wetlands. Planting of native vegetation along the coast in conjunction with beach renourishment projects. Identify high-priority floodplains, wetlands and open spaces through existing maps and analyses on a county by county basis and maintain the flood storage capacity of floodplains, wetlands and critical open space.
3. Construct 1-2 demonstration artificial reefs seaward of coastal areas experiencing shoreline erosion in order to evaluate the impact of the engineered reef system and the protection potential for similar reefs covering significant segments of the coast. Additionally, continuation and investment in artificial oyster reefs to provide both erosion resilience and protection for wetlands and an economic boost.
4. Stabilization of marsh edges by identifying locations coast-wide where living shorelines and other emerging methods may be used to allow marshes to regrow where they have been eroded, and replenish marshes not keeping up with sea-level rise. Identifying and conserving transition areas for future marsh movement inland.
5. Consolidation of state resources to create greater efficiencies and cost effectiveness. Coordination among multiple state agencies to develop a comprehensive, science-based regulatory process to address the design of living shorelines and streamline permitting processes where possible.
6. Grid protection through undergrounding of some distribution circuits and hardening the overall transmission systems to increase the stability of the grid in areas along with streamlining stricter vegetation management to protect the power lines. Additional Grid protection through continued development of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs), Microgrids and integrated planning.
7. Developing and coordinating of the sharing of available river modeling data, optimizing the modeling and then utilizing these results for development planning, emergency planning, and emergency operations. Shared modeling will allow South Carolina to develop in an ecologically friendly manner that reduces the potential for damage from flooding. Build in control structures in the development and operate as part of the Smart River Operations with the goal of preparing real time smart river topography for the coordination of actions by states, counties, local authorities and private companies and individuals based on modeling before during and after emergencies.
8. Ensuring that military facilities better withstand flooding and severe weather issues by coordination with the Department of Defense (DoD) to make appropriate changes to installation master planning, design, and construction standards including efforts to better understand rates of coastal erosion, natural and built flood protection infrastructure, and inland and littoral flood planning and mitigation.
9. Development of flood water channelization and the construction of reservoirs to assist with flooding while providing regions with lakefront property, business and recreational opportunities and energy.
10. Development of a capacity building program to assist under-resourced local governments in identifying solutions and developing a plan and applying for federal funding. Timeliness of the release of federal disaster funds allocated to the state from the recent disaster relief bills is important to South Carolina’s recovery from the devastation of storms. It is essential that efforts on initiatives to help recovery and preparation for the future be coordinated and data collection be shared at all levels.