Time to think more broadly about infrastructure?

That’s what the Conservation Voters of SC think:

Dear Conservation Voter,

The extraordinary weather we’ve just experienced tested our resilience and our strength as South Carolinians. The pictures of waves crashing over Charleston’s battery and the flooding in Columbia make me think that it’s time to enlarge our conversations about infrastructure. When state elected leaders talk about how to fund the repair of roads and bridges, we should also talk about how to invest in resilient infrastructure.
Not only do we need to invest in mitigation and adaptation plans to reduce the impacts of rising sea levels along our coast, but we also have challenges with stormwater and dam safety, and concerns about the integrity of Pinewood and other waste sites when exposed to extreme weather.
Before we begin those conversations, we are sending a special thank you to our first responders, elected officials, and to all who in one way or another extended a helping hand over the weekend. Help the recovery efforts, with a donation through the Central Carolina Community Foundation, of if you are close to Columbia, sign up to volunteer through the United Way.

Ann Timberlake, Executive Director

We might start with Gill’s Creek.

Or maybe the 800-million-ton gorilla hovering over us all, Lake Murray. We beefed up the dam a few years back, but still had to open the floodgates and cause tremendous flooding downstream. I saw a story Since I live a block from the Saluda, I’d like as many reassurances as you can give me…

15 thoughts on “Time to think more broadly about infrastructure?

  1. Barry

    It’s true.

    Just like a football team needs a strategy for recruiting top prospects (Gamecocks, do you hear me?) – our state needs a grand vision, and a plan for tackling our overall infrastructure.

    Not just any plan- but a serious plan – maybe even an infrastructure Czar – someone serious minded, maybe with experience in leading tech or engineering firms, to help put a plan together.

    I won’t hold my breath though.

    1. Lynn Teague

      An infrastructure plan will work only if the General Assembly allows it to do so. If they persist in controlling everything and injecting politics into decision-making (thinking STIB here, and Act 388 as well) no plan that is worth having can be implemented.

  2. Doug Ross

    How about using all (some?) of that penny tax money for roads specifically on fixes only and not on new greenways, etc.? Until we have the foundation built to last, we shouldn’t be decorating the living room.

    And just like the Charleston shooting was the prime motivator to bring down the flag, the flooding should be used to drive an increase in the gas tax immediately — but only if it is used for shoring up existing infrastructure, not starting new projects that some legislator wants.

    And for the love of all that is holy, can ANYBODY stop the Mayor and County Council from stealing money from the water bills to pay for their pet pork projects? Some of the problems we are seeing are directly related to shifting money from the water department to other unrelated activities. That MUST stop and those who are doing it should be kicked out of office next election.

    1. Doug Ross

      As an example, I would suggest that tying up MILLIONS of dollars in the Palmetto Compress building was unconscionable when there are roads and bridges needing repair. I drove past that structure the other day and just shook my head, wondering why in the world that monstrosity has any historical value worth spending tax dollars on.

        1. Doug Ross

          Yes, but I believe they were looking at water money first. That money should be untouchable for anything but water and sewer infrastructure. And how much money has been diverted to the new baseball stadium that should have been spent on shoring up the system. The problem is that there are too many buckets and too many funding sources (roads penny, hospitality two cents) that can’t be spent on real needs when there should be a single fund used to fund projects based on priorities related to the general population. Gas taxes and car property taxes should go for roads and bridges. Water revenue should go to water infrastructure. Stop funding the zoo, arts, museums, etc. Roads, schools, police & fire… that’s where tax dollars should go first.

    2. Barry

      I would gladly support increasing the state gas taxes for that purpose- and I think most people would – IF

      it was used for rebuilding the roads we have (adding lanes to interstates around our cities as needed too).

      But with the money, I’d also fund ONE ADDITIONAL ENTITY – an Infrastructure Inspector General with at least a small office staff – 3-4 folks) that are required to produce yearly reports on the funding, projects, and progress- with financials – and reports of any abuse.

  3. Jennifer Fitz


    I couldn’t agree more on the infrastructure. Meanwhile, to reassure you about Lake Murray, but in the process pull us back to that infrastructure question:

    The reason they opened the flood gates was to keep the lake level low enough that the dam would not be compromised. The good news is that the flood gates proved themselves capable of keeping up with the rain (and other general drainage into the Saluda River basin.) In other words, because the dam worked the way it’s supposed to in this situation, that’s why the lower Saluda is in your community swimming pool — but not covering your house.

    To that point, one of the realities that our infrastructure improvements need to address is that we have to allow for the reality that sometimes the Saluda (and all the other waterways) is going to get big. I think a specific challenge for the state will be admitting that our flood zones are perhaps a bit off — or at least that we need to accept that the 100-year flood zone is a place where water’s going to be every now and again, and that doesn’t mean. But given the massive changes in storm water flow patterns that urbanization necessarily brings, I suspect we have some significant updating to do on our flood zone maps.

    Our other major challenge will be getting our smaller dams built to a more rigorous standard. Not so much a job for a tsar as for a combination of civil engineers for the high-impact zones, and, for rural ponds, the extension service. Something to our credit: An awful lot of our ponds didn’t fail. That’s a good start.


  4. Karen Pearson

    I don’t usually agree with Doug, but I have to say that our existing roads/bridges take priority over anything besides most basic human need (because the ability to travel safely is a human need). We are busy spendiing money on various things that are not taxed. Money from water/sewer taxes need to go there. Money for roads/infrastructure needs to go there. It seems to me that the worst problem is that we have cut taxes without providing any alternate revenue. To keep from being obvious about the lack of money our legislators have shifted money from the not-so-obvious (who pays attention to a sewer line until it breaks)f to the obvious.


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