Beaufort News

As hurricane season begins, Beaufort starts work to keep homes from flooding

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Watch this video to learn how to navigate the FEMA's flood maps for Beaufort County. The link for the website is:
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Watch this video to learn how to navigate the FEMA's flood maps for Beaufort County. The link for the website is:

Just beyond home plate of the Beaufort Middle School softball field, an excavator churned as it piled dirt into a large container.

Another piece of machinery carried away small trees and branches. Around the sports fields, a network of ditches are being cleared and deepened in an effort to protect nearby homes in the Mossy Oaks area from flooding.

The ditch work that started this week is one of the first tangible steps in Beaufort’s plan to combat flooding in the city — an undertaking with an overall expected price tag of $13 million.

“Hopefully this is going to make the situation for people in that area one heck of a whole lot better,” said Neal Pugliese, a former city public projects director now serving as a city consultant and chairman of a community task force monitoring the work.

City leaders deemed Mossy Oaks the most pressing after homes in some areas flooded in consecutive years due to Hurricane Matthew and Tropical Storm Irma.

The city recently announced a $500,000 grant to help pay for some of the work.

Among the other projects in Mossy Oaks are a 4-acre pond in Southside Park and new pipes to carry water under Battery Creek Road and the Spanish Moss Trail to drain to Battery Creek.

Prefabricated gates are planned to control the flow of water through new pipes to be installed under the trail. The popular biking and walking path will have to be reinforced with sheet piling.

City officials are still seeking permitting for most of the work as hurricane season begins. Work in the Mossy Oaks area is expected to continue through June 2020.

With an estimated price tag of about $6 million, the Mossy Oaks work will be the most expensive. Another $3.9 million is planned to help fortify the Point, the downtown neighborhood home to some of Beaufort’s most historic and iconic structures.

By comparison, the initial cost for Oliver’s Bushhogging to clear and dig the canal is about $50,000. Crews dug up old furniture, tires and car parts to reach a depth of up to 12 feet, Pugliese said.

He watched as water in the newly dug ditch flowed around a bend and drifted the intended direction.

Some residents along the marsh on West Royal Oaks Drive and along the drainage ditch known as the Jane Way Canal saw their houses flood multiple times during storms in recent years, leading to a tense public meeting as state and local officials laid out possible solutions.

Pugliese told city leaders last year that the proposed fixes probably wouldn’t solve flooding issues for the worst conditions but would improve the chances of keeping water out.

Stephen Fastenau covers northern Beaufort County as a reporter for The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet, where he has worked since 2010 and been recognized with state and national awards. He studied journalism and political science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and lives in Beaufort.
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