Meeting addresses West Ashley drainage concerns

During the severe flooding in late August and early October, some neighborhoods in West Ashley got the worst of it, many houses damaged beyond repair. Neighbors are worried it could happen again, blaming over-development as a contributing factor. News 2 was at a meeting Thursday night where engineers spoke with neighbors about fixing some of these flooding problems.

That meeting got heated. It was full house as neighbors from Hickory Farms, Hickory Hills, Shadowmoss and Village Green gathered at Drayton Hall for their first chance to come face to face with city and county engineers. When News 2 spoke to neighbors in the past, they have blamed poor planning and over-development as causes of drainage issues in the area and their frustration certainly came across in Thursday night’s meeting.

Charleston Director of Public Service, Laura Cabiness, says, “We know emotions have been running high in this area and that people are under a lot of stress, but I think in spite of that there was some information that was exchanged and we’ll be able to move forward.”

Some attendees called it a “dog and pony show”, telling News 2 it seemed like engineers were trying to dodge the issues.

A Hickory Farms resident, Randy Harley, says, “We came here expecting a question and answer meeting and they’re trying to really, in my opinion, just skirt around the problem. We all know there’s probably not a quick fix on the flooding problem in Hickory Farms, Shadowmoss and Hickory Hills areas, but they’re not being real candid I don’t think.”

One issue that got a direct answer was regarding a pipe in the West Ashley Circle. Neighbors had been complaining the pipe flowed backward, dumping water into yards instead of the wetlands.

Harley says, “We knew it all along, but they finally admitted it after someone asked a pointed question to them.”

Engineers say neighbors were right, and they’re fixing it.

Charleston Director of Transportation and Development, Steve Thigpen, says, “As a temporary measure, we put sandbags inside the pipe to stop that water from coming their way and opened up a roadside ditch on the other side of the circle so now the water can drain that way.”

He says they are working on a permanent solution, but are waiting for permits to be approved. City officials also say they are working with FEMA to purchase many of the damaged homes, so people can get out and no one else will be stuck in a known flood area.

Charleston City Councilman, Dean Riegel, says, “There are areas that we just can’t mitigate and with the help of FEMA and the federal government we will declare those homes uninhabitable and those folks will move out and we will reimburse them with the fair market values.”

City and county engineers still say the West Ashley Circle and Bees Ferry expansion aren’t impacting the drainage, but are conducting studies to find out for sure.

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