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Conway City Council fears SCDOT barriers could lead to increased flooding post-Florence

SCDOT crews construct a flood barrier at U.S. 378 and U.S. 501 Bypass in Conway, S.C., Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. (SCDOT)

The Conway City Council fears that flood barriers put in place by the South Carolina Department of Transportation could lead to even more flooding.

SCDOT announced Sunday that it was beginning the construction of two barriers along U.S. 378 in the Pee Dee region in an effort to curb flooding caused by Hurricane turned Tropical Storm Florence.

One of the two U.S. 378 barrier locations is at the U.S. 501 Bypass in Conway.

In a statement, SCDOT said Florence floodwaters would "overtop" bridges by Tuesday if not for the pair of barriers, to be completed Monday evening.

Florence has already led to roughly a dozen deaths in the Carolinas, including one in Plantersville, South Carolina, early Sunday morning.

In a meeting Sunday afternoon, Conway City Administrator Adam Emrick expressed concern that the U.S. 501 barrier in Horry County, in which Conway is located, would not block flooding but instead lead to more of it.

He says Conway government representatives have asked SCDOT, state and county officials:

"Will those barriers cause any impact with the flooding that would not be caused but for those barriers?"

Emrick says the response he got is that the barriers are being put up without sufficient data in place on further flooding the barriers may inadvertently cause.

"That's an unacceptable solution," Emrick said.

Emrick went on to say that the council estimates the Waccamaw River may rise about 1 foot higher than it did two years ago during Hurricane Matthew. He says he's been told by Horry County that it could rise as many as 4 feet higher.

Emrick said, "4 [feet] of water above Matthew, we will likely lose about 944 homes -- well, not lose, but have water in them that we would not otherwise have water in but for that extra 4 feet. We don't know if that's coming from the barriers, we don't know if that's coming from just normal flooding. The unknown is what is the concern of council."

Councilman Thomas Anderson made a motion to "secure legal counsel to pursue an injunction against South Carolina DOT, the State of South Carolina and Horry County to prohibit the construction of barriers on U.S. 501 Bypass in the City of Conway until those agencies have provided sufficient, scientific modeling to show that the construction of barriers will not contribute to or cause additional flooding in the City of Conway."

The council approved the motion unanimously.

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