Hewitt: Protecting the SC Coastline through Flood Resilience

March 23, 2022

By Lee Hewitt

Every year, residents along the Carolina coast keep a watchful eye on the latest weather forecasts. During the peak of hurricane season, it is important for all of us, both here on the coast and for those who live further inland, to stay alert.

We all know our coast is susceptible to these climate-fueled systems, from storm surge to heavy rainfall that in turn causes widespread flooding. I am proud to say that our leaders on the local, state, and federal level are all working together to combat the damaging and deadly impacts of this flooding.

Thanks to a 2020 law, South Carolina is now a national leader when it comes to flood resilience. Republicans and Democrats came together in the General Assembly to pass the Resilience Revolving Fund Act, a bill I supported, to create a new statewide Office of Resilience.

Led by a Chief Resilience Officer, the Office of Resilience is tasked with developing and implementing a Statewide Resilience Plan and coordinating statewide climate resilience and climate disaster recovery efforts with federal, state, and local entities. With this office’s creation, South Carolina became the 10th state in the country to name a statewide Chief Resilience Officer.

During the Office’s first year, the General Assembly appropriated close to $50 million for it to begin its important work. And just this month House leaders passed another $100 million for the fund. The Office has already had a tremendous impact along the Grand Strand and other parts of the SC coast, approving more than $30 million in infrastructure mitigation grant funding last March for stormwater infrastructure and drainage improvements to several local governments, including Georgetown County.

Leaders are acting on the state level to solve this issue, but we need to be sure that county leaders all across the state are taking important steps to protect its citizens. Recently, Charleston County implemented a flood prevention program which rewards communities with lower flood insurance premiums for flood mitigation beyond minimum standards. It is imperative that all our county governments take a proactive approach to combat catastrophic flooding.

For us to be truly successful in the fight against catastrophic flooding, we need our partners at the federal level to also step up to the plate. Thankfully, our elected leaders in Washington, including Senator Lindsey Graham, are supporting measures to better protect us.

Senator Graham was a leader in passing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act through Congress in November 2021, which invests $12 billion in flood mitigation, including funding for FEMA flood mitigation grants and infrastructure investments to increase coastal climate resilience throughout our country.

These efforts over the last several years to protect our state and country from catastrophic flooding will soon save lives and money. With the threat of storms becoming more frequent and intense, we need to ensure that we stay on top of flood resiliency in our state and further invest in this important issue.

Hewitt represents parts of Charleston and Georgetown counties in S.C. House District 108.

Click here for the op-ed.