It's time for Charleston-area leaders to start address real issues like mitigating flooding, regulating the continued development of the peninsula and more. | File photo Dustin Waters

A group of local leaders, environmental and preservation advocates, engineers, business owners and concerned citizens have formed the Charleston Water Coalition (CWC) in an effort to protect downtown Charleston from rising tides and floodwaters.

“The Charleston Water Coalition is committed to finding solutions to the multidimensional challenge of water management.” said former Charleston city councilwoman and CWC spokesperson Marie Delcioppo. “Our first action is asking city leaders to pause moving the proposed peninsula seawall to PED [pre- construction, engineering and design] phase.”

Delcioppo said much of the public lacks an understanding of what the PED phase is: a commitment of forward momentum with little adjustment to the planned wall. The coalition, she said, seeks to provide a more clear picture of what the project actually commits taxpayers to.

“A single solution cannot solve the complicated, multifaceted threat facing our city,” said Jamey Goldin, former counsel for the S.C. House of Representatives and an energy attorney with Google. “Surrounding the city with a wall, which will reportedly loom as high as 11 feet in some areas, will permanently scar our city and draw money and resources away from other much-needed projects.”

Delcioppo said while perimeter protection is a good step for some areas, a “single-purpose monolithic 8.5-mile concrete wall” is not the answer for everyone. “The city deserves a Comprehensive Water Management Plan with groundwater assessment that addresses all of our flooding concerns city-wide,” she said.

Robinson Design Engineers, in a July 2020 report to the Army Corps of Engineers during its public input period, acknowledged the need for a storm surge barrier, but said the proposed structure “contradicts the core principles of building resilient cities.” The report encourages city leaders and the community at large to reject the proposal and instead embrace alternatives that “promote the ecological integrity of our natural defenses against floodwaters,” like marshlands.

“As has been suggested in the Dutch Dialogues, that perimeter protection must be multifunctional and beautiful, that any perimeter protection must be logical, practical and forward looking, and that alignments must take a multi-benefit approach,” Delcioppo told the City Paper. “To advance a no-regrets approach, and before any further steps are taken regarding this single-purpose linear wall, all options must be considered and agreed upon.”