We are pleased to announce that an overwhelming 82% of voters cast their ballot in support of the special assessment required for infrastructure improvements that will mitigate Kiawah’s commonly recurring flooding issues. The vote passed with the participation of 59% of community members. Alleviating hazardous flooding and maintaining passable roads in many heavy rainfall scenarios is an exciting step forward for our barrier island.
It is heartwarming to see the community support this effort with such unity. In these difficult times, the community came together for the common good. We had close to 200 people participate in flood mitigation discussion meetings, either online or in person (before lockdown). Many of you also submitted your questions to the association so that you could make an informed choice. We appreciate the time and effort made by each of you to research, question and participate in the vote to select a path forward for our community.
KICA has received the appropriate permits to begin work on Project Two, the new outfall at Pond 30, and Project Six, where an inlet will be dredged near Trumpet Creeper Lane. Project Two will have the greatest overall impact, mitigating many hazardous flooding issues that occur in central Kiawah. According to current construction timelines, this project will be complete by the end of the year. All projects are scheduled for completion by the end of 2022. The association will provide updates to the community throughout the project timeline, and the effectiveness of the infrastructure solutions will be evaluated and reported.
The first special assessment will be billed on June 1 and due July 1. Members will have the option to pay the single-year amount of $65 per unimproved property or $130 per improved property, or the full 5-year total special assessment.
We want to thank the community members who were part of the task force. Barry Abrams, Rajan Govindan and Chris Widuch all participated in our planning meetings and made valuable contributions to the final plan. We also had tremendous staff support. Shannon White, Jane Ovenden, Will Connor, Lucas Hernandez and Leah Burris spent countless hours working through the details to analyze the issues, make recommendations and communicate the final plan. Our outside engineering firm, Stantec, made themselves available whenever needed and provided excellent technical support. None of this progress would be possible without the initial planning and continued support of the KICA board members.
Finally, we want to thank our island partners who provided insights and support to our efforts. The Town of Kiawah Island, the Kiawah Conservancy and Kiawah Partners all came together for the benefit of the community. We all have a role to play in the health and stability of our island. Each entity contributed to the final outcome, and are committed to moving forward together to create an adaptive water management strategy for Kiawah.
Again, we are grateful for the support of everyone involved in this project and we hope it is a model for how significant decisions are made in the future.
Water Management Task Force Chair
KICA Board Treasurer
In January, community members were asked to share their direct input with the board in regards to three potential improvement projects at The Sandcastle.
The Project Options:
This pool is 17 meters by 10 meters. The intent would be to extend the swimming season, but not year around. Depending on weather, we anticipate this to be approximately April 1st until Thanksgiving.
Upgrade the furniture around the family pool to reflect the quality and comfort of the furniture around the new oceanfront pool, including more chairs and additional umbrellas to provide more shade.
Replace the wooden deck around the Castle Grille with the same IPE decking that surrounds the new pool and other deck areas that were a part of the renovation. The current decking is a lower grade pressure-treated pine. This potential project is re-decking only with no increase in size or shape of the deck.
Over 1,000 community members shared their preference, ranking the projects from most beneficial (#1) to least beneficial (#3).
KICA’s Lakes Management team is conducting multi-year pond-edge pruning project to support the health of our island’s pond system.
Our scenic ponds provide vital habitat for wildlife, but also serve another critical function; Kiawah’s 122 ponds are interconnected, operating as the master drainage system for the island.
Stormwater runoff enters into the ponds through the curb and road drains. The tide flows in and out of the pond system through twelve outfall structures that connect to the Kiawah River and inlet creeks. This free-flowing movement of water through the drainage system allows for the water to be properly oxygenated, it discourages the growth of harmful algae and encourages the establishment of beneficial bacteria communities.
By pruning overgrown vegetation that blocks sunlight and expels debris into the pond, pond health and water quality can be improved and drainage impediments prevented.
This project began in 2019 along edges in ponds #24, 27, 29, 30 between West Beach and Night Heron Park, and is again underway for 2020. This year, KICA plans to prune edges around ponds #8, 2, 18, 19, 23, 36 in the West and East Beach areas.
KICA is working to understand, anticipate and mitigate flooding on Kiawah. We need your help to confirm and/or increase the accuracy of our knowledge about water movement on the island. If you experience flooding, whether on your property or on a roadway while driving, please report that information to KICA’s resilience specialist, Lucas Hernandez.
The form at kica.us/floodreport allows you to share the date, location and type of flooding you witness, and you can even request to have Lucas visit your property.
This year, KICA’s board of directors assertively prioritized flood mitigation planning, establishing two task forces: Water Management and Infrastructure Funding. Together, their goals are to develop solutions for currently vulnerable areas on Kiawah and create long term water monitoring and management plans. The task forces report to the board, and are comprised of KICA community members and staff. Their work stems from action items the town identified in their 2018 Flood Mitigation and Sea Level Rise Adaptation Report.
Underway since the beginning of the year, the Water Management task force started by identifying seven problematic locations on Kiawah and developing plans to enhance drainage in those areas.
The areas are:
• Kiawah Island Parkway near Sora Rail
• Governors Drive near Turtle Point Maintenance
• Governors Drive near Trumpet Creeper Lane
• Kiawah Island Parkway near the V-gate
• Kiawah Island Parkway at Green Dolphin
• Pond 29 to Pond 24 between Surfwatch Drive and Sea Forest Drive
• Sea Marsh Lane
These susceptible areas were shared with the engineering firm Stantec, which came back with proposed infrastructure solutions in July. KICA Resilience Specialist Lucas Hernandez then worked with the task force to add the new infrastructure into a digital model of Kiawah Island, which simulates island water movement. Not only does the model give the task force data on if the water is removed effectively from the area, but it also helps identify where the water will be displaced, and if it creates an excess elsewhere, or leaves the island through the drainage basin.
Through this process, the task force should be able to approach the board with practical responses to flooding, and the board can be confident about investing association resources. The priority list will be decided at the Water Management task force’s upcoming meeting.
With the priority list, the Infrastructure Funding task force will tackle the challenge of determining a funding source for this new infrastructure. Although the association has a reserves fund to maintain infrastructure that was originally conveyed to KICA by developers, there is no funding source for new infrastructure.
Both task forces are working quickly to provide a recommended project and funding solution package to the board in time for the 2020 budget, which is approved at the November board meeting. The goal is for KICA to be able to complete the proposed infrastructure projects within 3-5 years.
According to board treasurer and task force member Dave Morley, these projects are just the first phase of work for the task force. In the second phase, likely launching in 2020, the task force will look at ways to prevent water from entering the island, like in the event of a storm surge. “We started by addressing known problems, will then determine preventative tactics, and will continue by establishing an adaptive strategy for monitoring and assessing the water management plan. We won’t ever eliminate risk, but our goal is mitigation,” remarked Morley. “Our work will provide a platform for Kiawah to monitor and adapt for anticipated rising sea levels, decades before we see any visible impact.”
Dave acknowledges that this work isn’t just about mitigating water events. “By addressing our island’s susceptibilities, we’ll improve the quality of life for our members. We’re also demonstrating that we’re a proactive community, willing to deal with issues head-on, and that can only have a positive impact on property values.”
The work of these task forces will be followed closely and updates will be shared with the community through email, in Digest and at kica.us.
One of Kiawah’s most significant ongoing challenges is water management, and Kiawah isn’t the only coastal community that struggles to find solutions to mitigate flooding. Following the release of the Town of Kiawah Island’s (TOKI) Flood Mitigation and Sea Level Rise Adaptation Report, KICA’s board felt compelled to ensure the association was leading the charge and responding proactively to the report’s findings. KICA began this work with the appointment of two task forces, one which evaluates new infrastructure projects for water management (which includes precautions for flood mitigation, and other incidents such as storm surge and rain events) and another to determine funding sources for that new infrastructure.
KICA’s new approach to water management includes incorporating this work into the Strategic Plan. Ensuring that staff projects, association funds and high-level planning are directed toward water management goals, and establishing key metrics for success in achieving those goals, are important priorities for our board of directors. KICA is working to identify immediate priorities and establish a monitoring plan that adapts to our dynamic ecosystem and the challenges we face in the future. This forward-looking perspective will allow us to address the challenges in a responsible way.
One of the keys to this approach is KICA’s newest employee, Lucas Hernandez. Lucas was hired in June as KICA’s first-ever resilience specialist. COO Jimmy Bailey notes that “Lucas is perhaps the first resilience specialist hired by a community association in the entire country.” Lucas’ title refers specifically to water resilience, the primary goal of KICA’s water management strategy. With his specialized experience, he has a diverse toolbox to tackle this challenge.
Lucas has master’s degrees in Environmental Studies and Public Administration, and is heavily involved in the Charleston area flood mitigation conversation. He is a member of the Charleston Resilience Network and worked with TOKI to create simulations in for their sea level rise research. When KICA initiated the Finance Committee Infrastructure Task Force earlier this spring, Lucas came into focus as an essential piece of KICA’s strategic water management planning. He’s asking the same questions KICA has been in recent years: “how do we respond to flooding or to a natural disaster? How do we get people thinking about it in a different way?”
Lucas uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software to answer these tough questions, simulating how surface water moves on the island in detail down to the square meter. It includes details like elevation and soil types to account for how these characteristics affect water movement. When a water event, like a storm surge or rapid downpour, is simulated, the model shows how water levels will be impacted across the island and can pinpoint areas where drainage infrastructure could be overloaded.
“When we first met Lucas, we had him simulate the storm surge from Tropical Storm Irma, where we knew the outcome and we could test his model. His model showed effects that were remarkably similar to our experience during the storm,” commented Bailey.
There are almost endless ways this type of information can be used to better prepare Kiawah for the future. The first task Lucas will tackle is embedding about ten potential infrastructure projects within his Kiawah model to test how they would impact water flow and evaluate if the designs are successful or should be altered. The potential projects would affect areas of concern identified by the Finance Committee’s Infrastructure Task Force. By modeling the data in advance, KICA can be a better steward of its resources by implementing solutions that are likely to improve our water management abilities. It can also help us discard sub-optimal solutions before a costly implementation.
In the fall of 2019, KICA anticipates releasing a plan which will focus on actions that can be accomplished in the next five years to deal with various storm scenarios. This plan will include recommendations (pretested by Lucas’ modeling) by the Infrastructure Task Force, and funding plans for the potential new infrastructure.
Lucas will spend a portion of his time on education and outreach. In a community as close as Kiawah, “any time someone changes the flow of surface water, by raising the property elevation for example, that water has to go somewhere else. This can cause issues for neighbors or cause infrastructure to overload. Being thoughtful with how we approach this and considerate of others is crucial for a community like Kiawah.”
Lucas talks a lot about bridges, but not the sort you might expect from a person so heavily involved in infrastructure. Again and again, he goes back to bridging the gaps within KICA’s departments and island entities to ensure the island faces its challenges in the best possible way. “Resilience to me is about bounce back,” he says. “What ways can we be proactive? How can this information help everyone? I think the answers are in KICA already but how can we flesh those out?”
While Lucas’ work is just getting started, it is part of a larger strategy for water management that KICA has been working on for some time. He shares KICA’s perspective on the challenges that face this special place. “Kiawah is a premier community — we want to keep the island ahead of the game. By being flood ready, it shows that we’re pushing toward becoming a community that can respond quickly and can potentially become a model for other coastal communities.”
KICA’s Lakes Management team has put together a multi-year project for the health of the island’s pond system, which serves as the master drainage system for the island. Over the years, the vegetation around some of the ponds has grown significantly, becoming problematic for both water quality and drainage. The goal of this project is to improve pond health and water quality while optimizing the drainage function of the pond system.
The ponds scheduled for 2019 have been selected with the following conditions in mind:
• significant quantities of live and dead debris present in or growing out over the water,
• a history of poor water quality issues, to include fish kills and/or hydrogen sulfide events,
• or they are part of the Beachwalker drainage basin, the main artery for water flow for one of the island’s largest drainage basins.
KICA has spent significant funds over the past several years working on the Beachwalker drainage basin, both in pipe repair and spot excavation. Cutting back overgrowth in pond vegetation is another step in protecting our financial investment in this drainage basin.
For 2019, the project will occur in the following ponds:
• Pond 24 – at Bittern Court, Red Bay Road, Palm Warbler Road and Catbrier Court, along Cougar Point Golf Course holes 12 and 13.
• Pond 27 – at Amaranth Road and Green Winged Teal Road, the Oceanwoods neighborhood and the Sora Rail Road utility area.
• Pond 29 – by the Night Heron Cottages neighborhood and the Sora Rail Road utility area.
• Pond 30 – by 71 and 73 Salthouse Lane and the Kiawah Island Parkway.
The project began in April with pond 24, where the general scope of work focused on the cutting and removal of vegetation falling into the pond. After pond 24, the contractor will move to pond 27, followed by ponds 29 and 30.
KICA’s contractor will be working within the pond and within our easement area. 95% of what will be targeted for this work are wax myrtles that are growing out over the ponds.
Our contractor will cut back canopy which has closed in over areas of the selected ponds, in order to permit sunlight back to the pond, as well as cut back overgrown shoreline vegetation which is depositing debris in the pond. KICA does not intend to impact screening vegetation for homes. KICA’s contractor will be working within the island’s normal commercial hours.
If you have questions about this project, contact KICA biologist Matt Hill at Matt.Hill@kica.us or 843-768-2315.
Starting Monday, Jan. 28, the inbound left lane at the Vanderhorst gate will be closed in order to even the surface of the road by replacing the brick pavers. All traffic will be directed to the outside lane. This lane repair is anticipated to take two weeks, as the bricks and mortar must set before traffic can drive over it. This will require security staff to stand away from the gate house, near the right lane, so please approach slowly and use caution. During inclement weather, Security staff will be stationed inside the gate house in order to respond to issues or questions.
Once the inbound left lane is complete, the inbound right lane will be repaired. Again, it will require the lane to be closed for approximately two weeks. During this second part of the project, the gate will be fully staffed.
Thank you for your patience, as we work to complete this project during our off-season. Please drive with extra care near the V-gate in the coming weeks.
After eight months of renovations, The Sandcastle is welcoming members back. Stop by to have a dip in the beautiful oceanfront pool or the refreshed family pool, take a fitness class with an ocean view, or enjoy a relaxing beverage at the new bar. The Castle Grille and Sandbar are serving delicious food and beachy beverages by Cru Catering.
While the majority of the facility is open, a few components will have a phased opening:
– The new bath house adjacent to the adult pool will remain under construction for at least a more weeks. The bath house at the family pool will be open.
– Boardwalk 8B will remain closed until the bath house construction is complete. Boardwalk 8A is open.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate The Sandcastle’s official grand opening is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 30 from 5:30 – 7 p.m.