The Beaufort Gazzette
July 12, 2015
By STEPHEN FASTENAU
A group discussing long-range plans for how Beaufort and Port Royal can address rising sea levels says the sky is not yet falling, but the conversation is important.
A task force made up of area residents, engineers and researchers met again last week to talk about ways to make the city of Beaufort more resilient in some areas that might be affected soonest, including The Point neighborhood, Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park and the Mossy Oaks area.
Among the possible future projects discussed are bulkheads for private property along the water in The Point and floodgates to control the flow of water in Mossy Oaks, where the old railway already serves as a sort of natural buffer.
The Federal Street pond in The Point, commonly known as “Old Point,” already includes a gate that can control tidal flow in the event of a storm surge, to keep water from neighboring yards. Similar systems could be applied in Mossy Oaks, said Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling. He said his involvement with the task force is also as an interested citizen.
The next step will be a meeting with Beaufort’s neighborhood associations in September and later with individual neighborhoods.
Lamar Taylor, Beaufort’s public works director, attended the meeting last week to discuss the feasibility of possible measures. Nothing is imminent, the group stressed, but when the opportunity for federal funding arises, the information will be in place to go after that money.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says sea levels could rise from 8 inches up to 6.6 feet by the end of the century. The task force has used NOAA data to build maps showing what Beaufort and Port Royal will look like at various stages of sea level rise.
“We’ve got to start panning for something,” said Frank Knapp, president of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce and part of a project called South Carolina Businesses Acting On Rising Seas. “That’s why we did what we did. We feel like up to 3 feet, there are things we can do to make the city resilient.”
The group talked with Blair Williams, who manages wetland permits for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, about the Old Point area. Williams said most of the area would be considered coastal water, with some tidelands, and that applications to build bulkheads would probably be viewed favorably because of the erosion-control benefit, according to notes from the task force.
Williams also talked about the possibility of building “living shorelines” — using bags of oyster shells to stabilize the marsh and raise the land behind it.
Keyserling said the group is looking at the numbers, not political arguments about the causes, and that no one needs to take action immediately or feel some of Beaufort’s oldest, most historic homes will soon be under water.
“There’s no sense that something has to be done tomorrow, but integrated into plans for neighborhoods and integrated into the long-term plans for the city,” Keyserling said.