HCF Continues to Refine Position on Army Corps’ Perimeter Protection Plan
Posted: May 19, 2020
On April 20th, the Army Corps released the “Tentatively Selected Plan” for structural protection of the Charleston Peninsula to reduce damages and loss caused by flooding during coastal storm events. The proposed protection system consists of a perimeter storm surge wall surrounding nearly 8 square miles of the Charleston Peninsula and a wave attenuating structure located 230 feet off the Battery Seawall. The Corps has also assessed the use of non-structural measures and buyouts for areas outside of the proposed wall, as well as permanent and mobile pump stations. The 60-day comment period for public input into the plan will close on June 19th.
As an organization dedicated to protecting Charleston’s historic resources, HCF feels strongly that we should consider every possible option for the long-term protection of Charleston from storm surge flooding and sea level rise. HCF is generally supportive of perimeter protection, if our concerns about design, aesthetics, and impacts to historic resources can be alleviated.
HCF has been working diligently to review the specifics and provide you with an analysis of the “Tentatively Selected Plan.” Below, we have categorized our analysis by subject area and provided our general questions, comments and/or opinions.
Please take a moment to consider HCF’s priorities for our comments to the Corps. The only way to improve the plan and develop a final plan that works for Charleston is through engagement in the public input process. We welcome and value your comments as we continue our in-depth analysis. It is important to note that there are comments that need to be asked of the Corps as it relates to the specifics of this Feasibility Study, but there are also broader questions that need to be directed at the city, such as:
- How will we pay for this?
- How does this plan fit into the overall flooding strategy for the entire city?
- Who at the city is going to manage the next phase (assuming we get there) where actual planning, engineering and design work is done?
- Who is going to manage the real estate acquisition and right-of-way work that is required?
- In advance of the next public input period planned for early 2021, it is incredibly important for the public to understand the look and feel of the wall and how it interfaces with the peninsula and the water
- The Corps and the City should engage with the City’s Design Center to provide the public with some human-scale visualizations of height, engineering, design, and aesthetics of the types of walls to be constructed to conceptualize this system from key vantage points
- Provide similar renderings for the wave attenuating structure and gated access points
Address Areas of the Peninsula Differently:
- The analysis should drill down as locally as possible to better understand the wall and its impact on different zones of the peninsula
- Ensure the tentatively selected plan is not a “one size fits all” approach and respects individual neighborhood characteristics
- The wall design and appearance should interface residents differently in different neighborhoods
Quality of Life and Livability:
- The wall design must be both beautiful and multi-functional, per the Dutch Dialogues recommendation
- The wall must contribute to Charleston’s character and quality of place – it cannot be an obtrusive monolith and be overly disruptive of the peninsula’s relationship to the water
- The path the wall follows, along with its height, should interface logically and sensitively to surrounding property
Design, Engineering and Aesthetics:
- Borrow design and aesthetics from the City’s architecture and history – make the wall look local and responsive to context
- Can the height of the wall and the size of the wave attenuator be decreased to mitigate historic resource impacts and still achieve storm surge protection goals?
- How do the Corps’ predictions for sea level rise interface with the City’s predictions made in the Sea Level Rise Strategy? Are the City and the Corps working from the same set of projection data for sea level rise over the next 50 years? If not, how do we marry the two to produce the best outcome for Charleston?
- Reassess areas not included in the interior of the wall and consider inclusion (Bridgeview Apartments, Aquarium Wharf, Union Pier, etc.)
- Adhere to the specific recommendations made in the Dutch Dialogues Charleston report for the peninsula, East Side, and Medical District
Historic and Cultural Resources:
- How the wall interfaces with the Historic District and City neighborhoods is critical – mitigating impacts to the historic assets of the City must remain paramount as they remain the defining features of the peninsula
- How will the non-structural measures included in the plan affect historic properties and neighborhoods? Which properties are affected?
- Visual intrusions to historic view sheds caused by both the wall and the wave attenuating structure (both from the peninsula outward and looking toward the peninsula from the water and surrounding areas) require greater attention in the study
- How will the proposed wall affect property values? Particularly for those properties whose view could be obstructed or water access inhibited
- How will the proposed wall affect the City’s tourism and hospitality industry? Historic districts and water access are an important draw for visitors.
Temporary Construction Impacts:
- Visual intrusions from construction of the barrier wall and the wave attenuator
- Ground disturbance to historic and archaeological resources
- Vibration damage caused by construction and equipment
- General noise disturbance caused by construction
- Navigational impacts due to temporary road and sidewalk closures
Please share your comments with us below.