Featured Image Credit: Time
Did you know that about 175 years ago, the mayor of Charleston offered a $100 gold medal to whoever could solve the city’s issue of coastal flooding?
Yep, it’s true.
We’re now in 2018. No medal was ever awarded, which means the problem was never solved. Now today we are a city full of development and rising sea levels that have near-daily consequences. Tidal flooding has increased over 200% in the last 20 years and the sea level has risen over 6 inches nationally since 1950.
The Charleston peninsula that sticks out towards the Atlantic Ocean has largely expanded by filling in creeks and marshes. This leaves the streets susceptible because the water has nowhere else to go. Even on the sunniest days, the streets of Charleston can be flooded due to high tides.
These tidal floods are often just a foot or two deep, but they can stop traffic, swamp homes, damage cars, kill lawns and forests, and poison wells with salt.
Thanks to climate change, more severe storms and higher tides are expected to get worse and worse. This means that a city like Charleston that is already prone to severe flooding is in serious trouble.
“There are three basic approaches to sea level rise,” said Erika Spanger-Siegfried, a senior analyst for the Climate & Energy Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “You can defend against the water with walls to keep it out. You accommodate the water by living with it and elevating buildings and creating channels. Or you retreat.”
So if we’re not retreating, what’s being done?
While the master drainage plan, like many other suggested plans to fix the issue, has good technical merit, the complexity of the flooding problems are not understood fully and therefore potential solutions are unable to be implemented.
Charleston is taking the threat of coastal flooding and rising sea levels seriously, but there is no doubt that more needs to be done about this issue.