In September 2018, a subcommittee of the Town of Kiawah Island’s Environmental Committee submitted a report to the Town Council. This report, Flood Mitigation and Sea Level Rise Adaptation for Kiawah Island, SC, was the result of 18 months of study and provided over a hundred recommendations for how the island could respond to the challenges of sea level rise and climate change. Both the town and the Kiawah Island Community Association (KICA) responded positively to the report and undertook a variety of proactive actions in response to the recommendations.
A key recommendation in the report was the implementation of an Adaptive Management Plan (AMP) to monitor conditions on Kiawah that may require intervention. KICA has established a task force, with endorsement by the town, to guide the initial phase of development of this plan. The goal for this first phase is to identify conditions that property owners find undesirable or unacceptable as a result of flooding induced by continuing sea level rise, as well as the environmental consequences of increasing periods of drought broken by periods of intense rainfall. These conditions, or “thresholds,” are situations that we never want to reach. The total AMP Plan will include “trigger points,” warnings that actions are needed to avoid a threshold breach; a monitoring program that will follow “indicators” related to the trigger points; and a “response plan” to either prevent the threshold from being reached or take actions to adapt to that threshold. Additional information on these terms and processes will be provided as the AMP is developed.
The development of the AMP is likely to take about a year, with the first step being the identification of “thresholds.” Thresholds will be established by considering impacts on public infrastructure, private property and the island’s environment. Since thresholds are primarily value judgments, their identification needs to reflect the diversity of community values. In order to reflect the values of the Kiawah community, the task force is planning for two opportunities for community input in this initial phase of the AMP development: virtual focus group meetings and a community survey. While face-to-face feedback is preferred, the COVID-19 outbreak limits our opportunities for face-to-face community input.
For the virtual focus groups, the AMP Task Force is seeking to put together small groups of property owners representing full-time or part-time residents with diversity of geographical location on the island, type of housing, and property usage. The participants are expected to contribute about five hours of time to read preparatory materials and participate in the virtual meeting with other property owners to help develop threshold statements. The virtual meetings will be held during the month of August. These threshold statements will then be used to develop a community survey that will be distributed to property owners and interested Kiawah parties to gain a consensus on the key thresholds that are of concern. The results will be presented to the Town Council and the KICA Board of Directors in November 2020.
If you are interested in learning more about participating in the virtual focus groups, please contact task force chair and KICA resilience specialist Lucas Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org by July 31. Decisions about participation will be made to ensure a diverse representation of the Kiawah community. In your email please include the following information:
Thanks for your interest in this important initiative on behalf of Kiawah Island.
Sent on behalf of the AMP Task Force,
Lucas Hernandez, Chair
This month, KICA’s flood mitigation efforts commence. Construction will begin on a new outfall at an existing inlet off of the Kiawah Island Parkway, across from the fire station. This new outfall will relieve the Beachwalker drainage system, providing the western half of the island with a secondary outlet for water to drain. Off of Governors Drive, near Trumpet Creeper Lane, a drainage inlet filled with sediment will be dredged. This will revive the channel so that water flows away from the island, as intended.
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
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.