Press release from the Southern Environmental Law Center and Coastal Conservation League
For immediate release: May 12, 2022
Contact: Erin Malec, SELC, [email protected], 434-409-8245
Diane Knich, Coastal Conservation League, [email protected], 843-530-0211
Permit issued for massive development that would put new homes in flood-prone area, exacerbate flooding
CHARLESTON, S.C — Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authorized a developer’s plans to build a massive development larger than Daniel Island on the Cainhoy peninsula, a largely undeveloped tract of land that is vulnerable to flooding now and will be at an even greater risk as seas continue rising and as storms continue to become more powerful.
The Cainhoy project, located adjacent to the Francis Marion National Forest and near already overcrowded Highway 41, would destroy nearly 200 acres of freshwater wetlands, which store flood waters and provide critical flooding protection. The loss of a massive amount of these wetlands would cause significant consequences as the city considers urgent solutions to tackle sea level rise. The development would impact the adjacent Francis Marion National Forest and the wildlife that live there, including the endangered red cockaded woodpecker.
“At the same time the Army Corps of Engineers is pushing a billion-dollar seawall for downtown Charleston, it’s greenlighting a massive new development that will place new development in an area vulnerable to flooding,” said Chris DeScherer, director of SELC’s South Carolina office. “You’re talking about putting a small city in a floodplain a few feet above sea level. There are responsible ways to invest in new development for Charleston, but this is not one of them.”
The nearly 10,000-acre Cainhoy project would place hundreds of new homes and infrastructure in the tract’s flood-prone southern section – much of which lies just a few feet above sea level up the Wando River from downtown Charleston. The Corps permit allows development in this area of the site even though independent plans show the peninsula could be developed in a way that minimizes both wetlands destruction and the number of residential areas subject to flooding.
“It’s difficult to reconcile how our leaders can be so concerned about storm surge and rising seas, but at the same time they’re okay with approving a huge new development in vulnerable areas that will surely and repeatedly flood,” said Jason Crowley, Communities and Transportation Senior Program Director for the Coastal Conservation League. “There are smarter and safer ways to develop this property, yet the plan moving forward places developer profits ahead of the well-being of our future neighbors and at the expense of our invaluable cultural and environmental resources adjacent the national forest.”
Note to reporters: We can provide an in-depth look at the proposed Cainhoy development using The Changing Coast, a new website and interactive mapping tool from SELC that concentrates an array of climate data into a single interface. For example, at the southern section of the Cainhoy peninsula—
where thousands of houses are slated to be built—storm surge from a Category 1 hurricane now could swamp the land. And in a future with just one foot of sea level rise, that southern tract will start to go underwater routinely.
The Southern Environmental Law Center is one of the nation’s most powerful defenders of the environment, rooted in the South. With a long track record, SELC takes on the toughest environmental challenges in court, in government, and in our communities to protect our region’s air, water, climate, wildlife, lands, and people. Nonprofit and nonpartisan, the organization has a staff of 170, including 90 attorneys, and is headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., with offices in Asheville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Chapel Hill, Charleston, Nashville, Richmond, and Washington, D.C. southernenvironment.org
About Coastal Conservation League: Since 1989, the Coastal Conservation League has worked to protect the health of the natural resources of the South Carolina coastal plain and ensure a high quality of life for all of the people who live in and love this special place. The Coastal Conservation League is a 501(c)3 charitable organization. Learn more and get involved at www.coastalconservationleague.org.