How South Carolina plans to tackle threats posed by flooding to the state

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Published: Jun. 29, 2023 at 11:10 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - State leaders say time is of the essence to protect South Carolina and its people from damage and destruction caused by extreme weather, especially flooding.

“There’s no time to waste,” Alex Butler, the resilience planning director for the state’s Office of Resilience, said.

South Carolina’s Strategic Statewide Resilience and Risk Reduction Plan was unveiled Thursday in Columbia after about two years of work to develop it.

“With this plan, citizens will be safer, we will have a better South Carolina and an understanding of where we are in our resilience efforts,” Chief Resilience Office Ben Duncan said.

The 744-page plan spearheaded by the state’s Office of Resilience lays out 54 recommendations, separated into categories like maintaining natural flood protection through conservation, incorporating resilience into planning, land use, and other regulatory processes, and increasing education, outreach, and disclosure.

“This is going to require us to grow our communities a little smarter than we have in the past, building where we should not be building,” Duncan said.

The Office of Resilience said projects aimed at improving data collection and coordinating at the watershed level with local communities are the initial top priorities.

“South Carolina has demonstrated a position of global leadership. Here in South Carolina, under the governor’s leadership, we’ve been able to dispel that you have to choose between economic and environmental sustainability,” South Carolina Floodwater Commission Chair Tom Mullikin said.

The plan also recommends establishing a voluntary pre-disaster buyout program for flood-prone properties.

“It’s a very delicate topic, right. It’s a very detailed topic to look at. There’s a lot of things to consider. There’s an attachment to place. Some folks have lived in communities for generations, and there’s a very strong attachment to place. So you have to work with the communities early on to let them know what you know and try to work to solutions that everybody can live with,” Butler said.

While this initial plan focuses on flooding, the Office of Resilience said it will be developing more recommendations focused on other hazards that impact South Carolina.

“This is a project that’s not going to begin today and end in a year or so. This is something that will be a permanent part of life in South Carolina,” Gov. Henry McMaster said.

For these recommendations to have their greatest impact, the Office of Resilience said it will also take support from local governments, tribal and traditional communities, as well as neighboring states.

The next state budget, effective July 1, allocates $200 million toward the Office of Resilience’s work.

McMaster said the state needs to be strategic in leveraging this money to get as much use out of it as possible.

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