Edisto Beach officials start looking at rising sea levels as they fight flooding

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By HEATHER WALTERS 

Edisto Beach officials are trying to tackle Mother Nature’s rising tides as they are now fighting erosion with the help of a few other area agencies. 

The Town of Edisto Beach has long sustained erosion woes, with much of the beach being renourished repeatedly in recent years. This has mostly been due to hurricanes that have either impacted the beach town directly, or whose high surfs and winds have pulled sand away from Edisto’s coastline. 

Those renourishment projects will continue: there is one such renourishment project happening now at Edisto Beach, with the town trying to replenish sand lost due to the impacts from Hurricane Dorian. The town’s leaders also have other ongoing projects already established to help fighting flooding and erosion effects, including fencing installations and better drainage. 

In addition to facing the woes of hurricane seasons, town leaders are also staring at another problem: overall rising sea levels.

“Given its vulnerable position to coastal hazards, the town has developed a plan to create a Sea Level Rise Adaptation report,” said Iris Hill, administrator for the Town of Edisto Beach. 

As a part of its report, the town has partnered with the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, the Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments Program at the University of South Carolina and at the College of Charleston. This program will help the town’s leaders to “develop strategies for the town to adapt, or increase its capacity to adapt, to future sea level rise impacts,” said Hill. 

“Adaptation is the process of adjusting activities, to a changing environment … to take advantage of benefits and reduce negative effects,” she said. 

At a meeting last week of the South Carolina Beach Advocates, Hill listened to a presentation about rising sea levels and how beach towns can brace for the inevitable.  

According to Hill, the overall sea levels are rising. The ocean has risen about 1-foot overall since 1921. “Flooding is becoming more persistent and for longer periods of time,” she said, talking about flooding at Edisto Beach. “We are looking at all aspects of the town that will be impacted, such as drainage plans, septic vulnerability, building codes, etc.”

The town started this process in February of 2020. Local leaders are working with their partners now to create a final draft of a report, showing what they have learned and looking at ways to adapt,” she said. 

“Even through a pandemic, we were able to garner input from the public and complete our vulnerability, consequences, and adaptation planning scenarios,” she said. “We are the process of finalizing the draft report.”

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