Advocacy Alerts

Preservation Review Drives Changes on Seawall Plan

preservation-admin , September 15, 2021

Peninsula aerial at Battery seawalls, courtesy of Post & Courier

The Army Corps of Engineers has released an updated report on plans to build a 12’ high storm surge barrier around the Charleston peninsula, which is currently open for public review and comment until October 25. The Preservation Society pushed for this supplemental review and we are grateful that the community will have an additional opportunity to weigh in.

A notable modification from previous plans is a concerted effort to reduce impacts to cultural and historic properties, including incorporation of an Environmental Impact Statement, as well as a phased approach to funding and construction. This commitment is largely driven by federal review requirements under the National Historic Preservation Act, through which the Preservation Society is contributing as a consulting party. Given that, by 2075, more than 50% of historic buildings on the peninsula are projected to be inundated by coastal storm surge, we recognize perimeter protection is important for the future of our historic district. However, a massive infrastructure project is not the only solution and it will not be worth the cost if designed in a way that comes at the expense of our unique historic environment.

To this end, the Preservation Society is working collaboratively with other coastal communities facing similar challenges. Staff regularly attends conferences and workshops to learn about approaches to flooding and sea-level rise in other historic districts, and share what is being done in Charleston. In fact, earlier this week, PSC Director of Historic Preservation Erin Minnigan served as the keynote speaker for the Keeping History Above Water: Salem event to discuss the variety of strategies being implemented in Charleston to protect our historic district against current and future flood risk. We look forward to continuing to partner with Salem and other sister historic cities as we contemplate the best approaches to major infrastructure projects impacting Charleston.

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