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.
During Hurricane Matthew, KICA received damage to 23 of its 25 boardwalks. Our general maintenance team was able to get some of these boardwalks re-opened with minor repairs. The timeline for boardwalks requiring extensive repairs is somewhat longer, though all involved have been extremely cooperative in order to expedite this important work.
KICA uses a consulting structural engineer to ensure what we build is safe and will withstand many years of “normal” wear and tear. Once that work is complete, it then goes through the approval process with the Architectural Review Board (ARB) and the Town of Kiawah Island (TOKI). This ensures TOKI’s ordinances are followed, as well as the regulations imposed by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (SC DHEC-OCRM).
We initially placed the priority on boardwalks in the area of Eugenia Avenue to Windswept, as this was an area where KICA had no open boardwalks.
– As of Feb. 15, KICA has completed construction on boardwalks 8A, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16.
– We just received approvals on 7, 10, 29, 31 and 33, and are proceeding to contract shortly.
– Our other boardwalks remain in design.
KICA has been and will continue to send weekly updates on its boardwalk repairs in the Thursday email update to the membership. (Access the Beach With Safety)
Policies and Regulations
In building the beach boardwalks, KICA adheres to design regulations specified by the ARB, TOKI and SC DHEC-OCRM. To comply with these regulations, boardwalks must meet the beach perpendicular to the shore and within 10 feet of the primary dune. In the five years preceding the storm, we had rebuilt 22 of our boardwalks (approx. $1 million) and were fortunate that significant accretion of the beach resulted in a dune profile suitable for ramps in most locations. Unfortunately, those dunes are gone – along with the bulk of the previous five years’ investment. This loss has necessitated we use steps as a repair solution in many locations.
We are not permitted, under normal regulations, to run a boardwalk parallel to the shore and dune line, and must seek an exception for this type of construction. Our preference is to build ramps perpendicular to the shore where the dune profile accommodates this type of design; however, Hurricane Matthew has caused us to consider new guidelines that provide an objective way to determine where exceptions should be considered.
One of those new guidelines considers the density of property located near a boardwalk. Areas where larger than average numbers of KICA member properties are concentrated in close proximity will be given extra consideration for ramps. This will result in our applying for ramps at boardwalks 8B, 22, and 27. As the map image below indicates, these are high density areas and we believe exceptions are warranted: