W. Columbia officials say frequent repairs to flooded riverwalk are worth it

Updated: Feb. 10, 2020 at 8:08 PM EST
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WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The West Columbia Riverwalk is closed for the fourth day in a row, as water from the Congaree River swallows much of the walking trail south of the Gervais Street bridge.

Parts of the path are completely washed out, while others are left with a thick layer of silt and mud where the water has receded.

After the flood of 2015, the city of Cayce and West Columbia faced nearly $2.8 million in damage to the river walk, as erosion and debris wiped out much of the pathway and bridges. Both cities received federal aid to assist in the repairs.

Anytime the Midlands receives heavy rainfall, city officials often announce the closure of one or more phases of the river walk to allow water to recede. According to West Columbia Mayor Tem Miles, the periodic repairs are worth it.

“That’s just part of being down here near the river,” he said. “It’s a decision we made that it was worth the investment to put infrastructure down here.”

Miles said the City of West Columbia is insured near the river and while he doesn’t know the price tag associated with the damage this time around, he doesn’t anticipate it being a curveball in the city’s annual budget.

“It’s nothing that’s going to affect our budget going forward, and of course that’s before seeing what the specific needs are, but I wouldn’t anticipate this being some huge cost and us reassessing where we are,” Miles said.

Along the Saluda River near Riverbanks Zoo, the finishing touches are being put on the newest phase of the 3 Rivers Greenway, an $8 million Richland County Penny Tax project.

According to Michael Dawson, CEO of the River Alliance, the wooden walkway is anchored into the riverbed and designed to withstand significant flooding. He too believes the river walk is an added benefit to the Midlands and far outweighs the cost to maintain and repair it.

“It has dramatically improved in public access to the river and the tax base in both those cities. So is it worthwhile...sure it is,” he said.

With many of the area’s rivers several feet above flood stage, city officials are keeping an eye on additional rainfall in the forecast.

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