NOAA Tool and Support Aid Far-Reaching Charleston Sea Level Rise Strategy

Five-phased project aims to address sea level rise over the next 50 years.

In Charleston, South Carolina, tidal flooding in the 1970s averaged twice per year. By the early 2010s, tidal flooding had risen to eleven times per year and is projected to strike up to 180 times per year by 2045. Sea level rise could exceed four feet by 2100. City officials are addressing this challenge through a comprehensive sea level rise strategy recently approved by Charleston City Council.

The intent is to prepare Charleston for the next 50 years. The report is brief, a mere 20 pages, but extensive. The five-phased approach is expected to cost approximately $154 million and be completed by 2020. Capital improvements include improved drainage, raising the elevation of busy streets affected by flooding, building and extending seawalls, and retrofitting public housing. The plan also calls for hiring a chief resilience officer.

NOAA’s Sea Level Rise Viewer played a key role. City council members used its flood projection maps and realistic visualizations of sea level rise impacts on local landmarks as an information resource. In terms of implementation, a NOAA Regional Coastal Resilience Grant of $766,887 will be used to advance these sea level rise resilience and recovery efforts. This grant was awarded to South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium on behalf of the Charleston Resilience Network.

“NOAA’s data, tools, and technical assistance played a critical role in helping our officials to ‘see’ the problem and move ahead on a sea level rise strategy,” says Carolee Williams, project manager for the City of Charleston in the Department of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability.

More Information:

Partners: Charleston Resilience Network; City of Charleston; College of Charleston; NOAA Office for Coastal Management; South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium; South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, Ocean and Coastal Resource Management; University of South Carolina; and The Citadel.