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McMaster's floodwater task force looking at your drains

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg hosted Gov. Henry McMaster and his floodwater commission at Founders Hall in Charleston Friday. Commission Chairman Thomas Mullikin said the group will start clearing ditches during the next few months to help reduce flooding. (Taggart Houck/WPDE)

The solution to reducing flooding may be in your ditch; at least, according to Governor Henry McMaster’s Floodwater Commission Task Force. In a few months, that’s where you might even find the task force.

The group of leaders and scientists from across the state met Friday in Charleston more than a month after their inaugural meeting in Columbia. Each person joined for a common goal.

“We want to make water our friend,” said Chairman Thomas Mullikin.

The 10 sub-groups involved presented their findings since the last meeting. For the most part, they talked about efforts to forge state and federal partnerships and previewed studies they’re hoping to conduct. But there’s a sense of urgency.

“In reality, our flood plains are effectively our living shorelines already,” said Paul Gayes, director of the School of Coastal and Marine Systems Science at Coastal Carolina University.

Leaders also addressed the need to change data sources for flood projection maps.

“Taking inventory and really starting to dig down into all the modeling systems that are out there,” said Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston of the South Carolina National Guard.

The conversation also shifted to tapping into more assistance from federal funds. Congressman Tom Rice’s Legislative Representative spoke about measures the congressman is taking, including new legislation that would allow for more federal funds in local disaster relief.

But Friday’s biggest focus came from an idea on South Carolina Department of Transportation Christy Hall’s group.

“Getting the existing drainage systems up to a state of good repair,” she said.

Chairman Thomas Mullikin said there are plans to improve drainage systems in Charleston and Marion counties, in particular, Nichols.

“The battle rhythm for this commission is gonna be blue collar. Lunch bucket, getting things done and we will identify those,” he said. “We’re gonna begin to clean ditches and culverts collectively.”

Mullikin and Hall refers to the cleanup as a pilot program, but didn’t have specific on when, where and who exactly would be involved at the meeting Friday.

He said the commission will work on clearing ditches and culverts across the state. One of the many ways, he said, the group can make immediate changes as the next hurricane season looms closer.

“This may be nothing but a pin pick in the overall issue,” he said. “But it sets the tone.”

Immediately following the meeting, Governor Henry McMaster and other leaders planted sweet grass outside the meeting room in Charles Towne Landing. They said it was to symbolize living shoreline, which is one of the ten sub-groups of the commission.

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