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Water Management Projects Go to a Vote

Water is one of Kiawah’s greatest assets – the ocean, marsh, river and ponds. The island’s natural abundance is a big reason why people are drawn to the island and why they stay, but living with water requires careful stewardship.

In 2019, KICA established the Water Management Task Force to evaluate and refine KICA’s approach to water management, and determine a comprehensive solution to address Kiawah’s commonly recurring flooding issues.

As the first step to any short or long-term flood mitigation efforts, international water resilience experts encourage communities to focus on water removal through drainage optimization. The task
force determined that six strategic infrastructure improvement projects would optimize Kiawah’s drainage system, allowing water to more efficiently exit the system. This would eliminate hazardous flooding in significant portions of the island during many heavy rainfall events and position Kiawah to recover more quickly from storm surge.

At present, a severe rainfall at high tide can flood Kiawah’s main roads, limiting access to and from the island. This has occurred five times in the last five years, and is a public safety issue. In the same rainfall scenario, with improvements to Kiawah’s infrastructure, main roads would remain open to traffic and hazardous flooding on common property throughout many neighborhoods would be resolved.

KICA is asking the community to vote to mitigate flooding by approving drainage infrastructure improvements. This is a commitment of $130 per improved property or $65 per unimproved property annually for five years. Supporting this effort directly benefits Kiawah property values and will provide island access in a flood scenario that currently threatens it. These infrastructure improvements are an essential step to effectively manage water on our barrier island.

If the community supports this initiative, infrastructure improvements will begin in June and reduced flooding may be seen in areas of Kiawah by the end of the year, with full optimization and the
completion of all projects anticipated by the end of 2022. Board treasurer and task force chair Dave Morley says “a vote to mitigate flooding is a minimal investment with returns benefiting the entire island. These projects immediately diminish a threat to property values, quality of life and public safety. There’s nothing higher on the board’s priority list.”

Currently, with the highest average annual rainfall at an average high tide (3.8 inch rainfall and 6.16 foot tide), the Kiawah Island Parkway (between West Beach and East Beach) floods with 12 inches of water, the height of some car tailpipes, which could prevent access to most of island. Statistically this happens annually, and it has occurred on Kiawah in all of the last five years.

In the same rainfall scenario, with improvements to Kiawah’s infrastructure, main roads would remain open to traffic and hazardous flooding on common property throughout most of the island would be resolved. Our simulation model also indicates that the proposed improvements keep the Kiawah Island Parkway, Governors Drive and Ocean Course Drive open to traffic in more severe rainfall events.

The community association currently has no funding source for new infrastructure. KICA’s reserve budget funds the repair and replacement of existing infrastructure as it ages, but there is no fund for new infrastructure. These proposed projects include additions of new pipes and a drainage outfall, and the raising of an existing berm and a small section of road.

Infrastructure is built by a developer and then conveyed to the community association to maintain. The robust drainage system conveyed to KICA was sufficient at the time it was built. In recent years, the frequency of rain events has increased, more often challenging the drainage system. New infrastructure will relieve the system and maximize the efficiency of water removal from Kiawah.

The total cost of the infrastructure projects, with endowed maintenance, is $2.9 million. This equates to $130 per improved property or $65 per unimproved property annually for five years. The Kiawah Island Golf Resort and Kiawah Partners (the developer) are members of the association and will be responsible for the combined amount of approximately $382,800. If supported by the membership, the first annual payment will be billed in June 2020.

The terms of this special assessment restrict funds to be used for water management efforts only. The special assessment cannot be extended past 2024 and the amount cannot be increased. Any debt used to finance these projects will be paid back over the five-year term. No changes may be made to these terms without another vote
of the membership.

This flood mitigation effort is supported by the Town of Kiawah Island, the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Kiawah Partners and the Kiawah Conservancy. For complete information, visit