Myrtle Beach community leaders meet to improve flood resiliency

Myrtle Beach community leaders meet to improve flood resiliency

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The city of Myrtle Beach is figuring out how to better prevent flooding and bounce back faster after it happens.

"We're a reactive society, so how do we become proactive versus reactive?" said Rob Flaner, a hazard mitigation program manager for Tetratech, an EPA contractor. "Now is the time to do it, when it's dry."

City staff members, along with people from the Environmental Protection Agency, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the South Carolina Forestry Commission and research groups, collaborated during a seven-hour meeting for one part of an EPA grant Myrtle Beach won to improve flood resiliency.

Five communities of 30 applicants were chosen for the grant.

"The city told a pretty compelling story when they applied to this program and it was centered around, 'Yea, we got whacked pretty good and it wasn't the first time,'" Flaner said.

On Wednesday night, the public gave their input about flooding during a community meeting.

"The biofeedback we got from the citizens is there's problems still," Flaner said. "OK, so what do we do about that?"

On Thursday, more than 20 people analyzed that feedback and used their own knowledge of flood problems to come up with solutions during a technical workshop.

Small groups looked at the city's strengths, weaknesses, obstacles and opportunities to improve flood management and stormwater maintenance.

"Floods are dynamic and they're constantly changing, so your capability has to be dynamic as well," Flaner said. "I think that's the focus of today. How do we leverage the city's strengths to address the obstacles and weaknesses?"

Then, they came up with a list of goals and what exactly the city can do to reach them.

"There's a lot of capital need and they're going to have to fund that somehow," Flaner said. "So how does that get done? I think one of our recommendations is going to be identifying opportunities to leverage grants, federal funding, what are they?"

The goals were to increase or enhance the community rating system program, offer incentives for proactive management practices, increase public education and outreach, and improve risk identification and communication.

Right now, Myrtle Beach is rated a class five through the community rating system for the National Flood Insurance Program.

Emily Hardee, the city's flood plain coordinator, said one of the goals after working with the EPA on flood resilience is to boost the rating up to a class four, saving people 5 percent more on their flood insurance on top of the current 25 percent discount.

One action to achieve that, which was brought up during the meeting, is to create a detailed stormwater master plan, required for the class four CRS rating.

The groups also talked about increasing public events to educate people on what the city does on a daily basis, offer developers incentives to use green infrastructure that allows for better drainage, and create web programs to identify places with drainage problems.

Those running the EPA program will now have 30 days to compile all of the information they got in the meetings and then make recommendations in an action plan.

"They're going to have that script," Flaner said. "And that gets handed back to the city and we say go forth and become resilient."

Flaner pointed out he thinks Myrtle Beach's current systems are highly capable.

"You can have all the capability in the world. Floods happen, so how do you deal with that?" he said. "That's one of our nation's problems is we just assume we'll deal with it when it happens. That's the wrong time to be trying to be prepared.

Councilwoman Mary Jeffcoat attended Thursday's meeting. Afterward, she said council is very interested in this topic and she thinks there will be implementation.

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