[image-1]As Charleston continues to experience the effects of tidal flooding more and more, the city has stepped forward with a formal strategy to address sea-level rise in the Lowcountry.
Released just before Christmas, the city’s new plan comes in at a brief 20 pages, but aims to prepare Charleston for the next 50 years of rising sea levels based on a maximum estimated increase of more than two feet by 2065. Over the past 100 years, the sea level around Charleston has risen by more than one foot and current estimates by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict 2-7 feet of sea-level rise in Charleston over the next century. Faced with the threat of rising tides, the city plans to regularly update the strategy as needed based on changing conditions.
Expecting as many as 180 tidal floods per year by 2045, a major component of the plan is completing the Spring/Fishburne Drainage Improvement Project. The largest undertaking of its kind in the city’s history, construction of the five-phase project is expected to be completed by 2020 and cost approximately $154 million. Other capital projects proposed include raising the elevation of primary streets affected by flooding, building or extending seawalls, and retrofitting public housing in flood-prone areas.
In addition to developing a formal parking plan to be used in the event of flooding, the city’s strategy also calls for the hiring of a chief resilience officer. Joining the growing number of cities that have established resilience offices, the grant-funded position would coordinate internal efforts between city departments.
“Having a central hub that can say, ‘Hey, the folks in city planning are working on this really great initiative. Why don’t you in the health department take advantage of this communications pathway that they have opened up and double up your efforts and get three times as much results out of it?’ That’s the kind of work we are all really passionate about,” says Jared Genova, 100 Resilient Cities project manager for New Orleans, La. “The crux of a lot of our work is making sure the right people are working together. … The way it’s meant to function is that a lot of things are going to remain compartmentalized to some degree, but if we can work hard with each of the departments or each of the entities outside of city government and within city government to make people understand that we are on the same team and we are actually doing a lot of complementary work, if we join forces, then we are going to be able to do this much better.”
Supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, 100 Resilient Cities is an international effort to strengthen urban communities. A main component of the organization’s strategy is providing financial and logistical guidance for establishing chief resilience officers to lead resilience efforts in cities ranging from natural threats to social and economic inequality.
“Charleston and New Orleans have a lot in common, both historically and today. They’re both major historical port cities of the South facing similar issues like sea-level rise and other threats of climate change, but also the social issues that we share,” says Genova. “Part of what our work involves is making the connection between physical threats like sea-level rise, like the threats to infrastructure, the threats to the natural environment around us, but also making the connection to our social situations and economic opportunity as well. A lot of our strategy is making those connections just at the most basic level and our work now focuses on developing programs and policies to formalize those relationships.”