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Chief Resiliency Officer hired to stem the rising tides of Charleston

Cars driving in flooding (WCIV)

Mayor Tecklenburg is taking a stand against the rising waters in Charleston. The concern is felt by anyone who braves the city's streets at high tide, and those who own homes and businesses in flood prone areas are looking for strong leadership and swift action.

At the State of the City address Tuesday night, the Mayor said, “We simply must make flooding and drainage our city's top long-range priority.”

A priority that keeps the Mayor's new fulltime Chief Resiliency Officer awake at night:

“It’s what's been waking me up for the four years, high tides, and heavy rain,” says Chief Resiliency Officer- city of Charleston, Mark Wilbert.

That's because according to the city's own sea level rise strategy, we could be looking at 180 days of tidal flooding each year by 2045. Anyone who drives downtown knows that navigating our city streets is nearly impossible during the King tides.

Wilbert says he is ready for the challenge to address the city’s flooding. “Look how beautiful it is here we don't want to give this up either we want to fight to save this the best we can figure out what we are going to save and save it- how does that sound?” says Wilbert.

It sounds great, but preservationists like Khristopher King are concerned the cost to fix our flooding and drainage issues is exponentially higher than the current allotment.

“We don't need any more plans to address the issue-we need action. How can we bond $500 million or a billion dollars in the next few years? It's a massive question for our community,” says King, the Executive Director of the Preservation Society of Charleston.

One of the ways to battle rising waters is raising homes.

“It's been a very, very difficult thing this is the first historic home that's ever been raised in the Charleston area and it was a very, very, very difficult process,” says Downtown Homeowner Jack Margolies.

“The concern we have is that its trickling down to the homeowners to have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to prepare their properties for future flood,” says King.

Money that many homeowners just don't have, but that's part of the puzzle that Wilbert says he will navigate every day going forward until we find a solution.

“We are going to have to elevate homes, we are going to have to build sea walls, we are going to have to put in new drainage systems and there may be areas like we just did in West Ashley, where we are buying out homes and abandon and that land will be turned into a park,” says Wilbert, “we just got to be smart and keep our shoulder in it. “

Wilbert says that his office began updating the 2015 sea level rise strategy just two days ago. That update should be ready for public review in about 5 months.

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