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Foundation Matters

Breaking Down How to Build a Seawall

Posted: November 2, 2021

HCF has gotten numerous calls with questions about the Army Corps peninsula seawall project. And rightly so – this is a massive, complex project and entails a lot of unfamiliar processes and terms. We have provided answers to the most frequently asked questions we have received below, as well as a link to the Information Sheet prepared by the city’s Army Corps Citizen Advisory Committee, on which HCF’s Cashion Drolet serves and chairs the Funding Working Group. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with additional questions.

The Public Comment Period Closed October 25th – So Now What Happens?
There are a couple of immediate steps that must be taken by the City of Charleston and by the Army Corps, and in the longer term by Congress. In the December or January timeframe, City Council will decide whether the city will elect to advance to the preconstruction engineering and design (PED) phase. During this timeframe, the city must also certify its financial capability to undertake the project, though it is not necessary to have all of the funds in place. Concurrently, the Corps project team will review and consider all of the comments they received from the public and determine whether they can incorporate that feedback into the study recommendations. The Corps will work toward developing the Final Report, which will be made publicly available in the spring of 2022. In the summer of 2022, we could expect the Chief of Engineers in Washington, DC to sign the Final Report and transmit it to Congress with a recommendation for Congressional authorization of the project. Federal projects require authorization in order to receive funding, and the peninsula seawall would be eligible for such authorization in the next Water Resources Development Act as early as 2022 and could receive funding thereafter. With authorization and funding for the project secured, PED year 1 could commence in 2023 or 2024. Once PED is concluded, a construction authorization and appropriation is needed from Congress to proceed with the project.

I Hear A Whole Lot About PED – What Does That Mean?
PED means preconstruction engineering and design. PED is the period during which detailed engineering, technical studies and design are conducted by the Army Corps. PED follows the feasibility study phase, our current phase, which determines whether a project and outcome are possible. PED determines exactly how the project takes shape to make that outcome happen. Through numerous technical studies and models, PED will determine the exact wall alignment, what the wall will look like, precisely how tall it will be, impacts to historic resources, gate procedures, operations & maintenance, transportation impacts, etc. The Army Corps estimates that PED will likely take 4 years and cost $50 million (cost shared 65%/35% between the federal government and the city).

How Will the City Pay for the Seawall Project?
The total project cost is estimated at $1.1 billion with 65% paid by the federal government and 35% paid by the city. While the city’s cost share may seem daunting at $385 million, it is important to note that the city would receive credit for the real estate right-of-way for the project. The city and state already own much of that property, an estimated $110-130 million worth, which could be applied to the city’s contribution and thereby significantly reduce the city’s capital contribution. Another important thing to note is that the city will not have to come up with the full amount up front; the city must identify a funding stream to match federal funds, as they are appropriated at various project phases. The city will first need to develop a plan to fund its share of PED (roughly $17 million), for which it has already laid the groundwork via a combination of hospitality and accommodations tax revenue, rollback millage, and grant funding from the SC State Office of Resilience. Moving into construction which is currently planned over 4 phases, funding from the state and Charleston County will be necessary to support the project, in addition to exploration of a peninsula-wide municipal improvement district and resilience bonds.

More questions? Click here to access the Information Sheet prepared by the city’s Army Corps Citizen Advisory Committee.

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