Permits in hand, next phase of Mossy Oaks project nears

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Help is on the way for the often-flooded Mossy Oaks neighborhood now that all federal and state permits have been secured.

Neal Pugliese, chairman of the multi-jurisdictional Mossy Oaks Drainage Task Force, said the permits – from the Army Corps of Engineers, South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control, Ocean & Coastal Resource Management, and South Carolina Department of Transportation – were received in almost record time. “We boiled it down to eight months. The permitting process would normally take years,” he told City Council during its April 28 Work Session.

Pugliese commended the coordination and cooperation among the agencies for expediting the permits. He also thanked U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, State Sen. Tom Davis and State Rep. Shannon Erickson for their help during the permitting process.

Bids are due back in early May for the next phases of the project, he said.

In 2017, the task force was formed to address the issue of repeated flooding in the Mossy Oaks neighborhood. The area, comprising approximately 550 acres and several hundred homes, flooded following heavy rains, high tides, and storm surges. An engineering study identified factors such as inefficient drainage structures and poor drainage patterns. Other complicating issues included homes built on slabs, along with ditches overgrown with vegetation.

The City obtained two grants totaling $1.5 million to help fund the project.

The engineering study, completed in the summer of 2018, divided the project area into Basin 1 (north side of neighborhood) and Basin 2 (south side) where water collected repeatedly due to misaligned drainage pipe elevations, Pugliese said. Roughly 30 areas where drainage is poor have been identified and all locations will be improved, he said.

In 2019, workers cleared out and graded the Jane Way Ditch in Basin 1, which was overgrown with vegetation and used for dumping. Currently, flap gates have been ordered for the Spanish Moss Trail where it abuts Battery Creek.

“These will prevent water surging into the neighborhood during severe weather events,” Pugliese said.

Other fixes on the way include increasing the pipe size and elevation in the vicinity of the duck pond in Basin 1 and installation of a larger pipe at the correct elevation at First Blvd. and Jane Way.

While no area in the Lowcountry is safe from hurricanes that occur at high tide, the Mossy Oaks improvements will significantly improve drainage for average or above average storm events, Pugliese said.

The Mossy Oaks area falls within multiple jurisdictions so it would have been easy for the City Council to point the finger elsewhere for action and funding, but they did not, Pugliese said.

“Many thanks to the City Council for having the courage to take this on,” Pugliese said at the meeting. “The Council could have kicked this can down the road by saying ‘not my problem.’ City Council did not do that, which is why we’re in the position that we’re in, getting ready to start construction on this project while delivering relief to a most deserving community.”

Pugliese noted that unidentified people were still dumping trash in the existing drainage ditches. “It is imperative that everyone understand that drainage ditches are for stormwater … period,” he said. The City’s codes enforcement staff and police will be checking for illegal dumping, he said.