S.C. Sea Grant Consortium
A salt marsh tidal creek with the sun setting over the water, trees and plants in the foreground.

S.C. Resilient Coastal Communities Collaborative Program

Overview

The S.C. Resilient Coastal Communities Collaborative Program will develop resilience and flood risk reduction plans for the Salkehatchie River Basin as a pilot program for future watershed-based planning efforts. The project team will work with individual communities to co-produce 10 Community Risk and Vulnerability Reports with identified solutions. The reports will be integrated into a Salkehatchie River Basin Watershed Resilience Plan which prioritizes actions that increase community and ecosystem resilience. The project also will produce a Watershed Resilience Planning Handbook that will provide guidance to other communities for implementing a similar process of watershed-based resilience planning.

Using community engagement expertise and understanding of coastal issues from staff at the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium and S.C. Beach Advocates, the resulting project will directly engage situationally vulnerable and historically underserved communities to identify climate resilience concerns and co-produce specific and actionable steps to take to enhance resilience to climate hazards.

A map of South Carolina showing the 8 major river basins. The Salkahatchie river basin is shown along the southern coast, encompassing Beaufort.

The major river basins in South Carolina. Image by SCDNR.

Background

Coastal communities in S.C. are experiencing a greater number of tidal flooding events as well as high-intensity rain events overwhelming stormwater systems. Impacts from three presidentially declared disasters in four years highlighted the vulnerabilities of South Carolina to natural hazards and led to a statewide emphasis on strengthening resilience, including the creation of the S.C. Office of Resilience. There have been numerous studies, plans and initiatives focused on flood mitigation and resilience along the coast, as cataloged by S.C. Sea Grant Consortium’s South Carolina Resilience Planning Archive. However, not all communities (such as those that may be situationally vulnerable and/or historically underserved) have access to the resources necessary to conduct such planning activities, and the scope and outcomes of existing plans are variable and are not always consistent or easily replicable. Further, waterbodies often span political boundaries, which creates additional challenges as they connect communities with different priorities and lived experiences and also connect those at different stages in resilience planning. This means that decisions made by one community can affect conditions in adjacent communities within a given waterbody.

The nature of these communities connected by water highlights the need for a watershed-based planning approach with a focus on situationally vulnerable and underserved communities.  Watershed planning is based on an assessment of a geographically defined watershed, the flow of water over the built and natural landscape, disregarding jurisdictional boundaries, and considering watershed health and the downstream impacts of actions through all steps of the planning process. One technique in watershed-based planning is the use of natural or nature-based approaches because they may also require implementation across political jurisdictions.

A watershed-based resilience planning effort, the S.C. Resilient Coastal Communities Collaborative Program, is beginning in Summer 2023 to work with communities to co-produce plans for flood risk reduction approaches in waterways that flow across county and municipal boundaries with the intent of 1) building the capacity of underserved communities in empowering them to plan for climate resilience, and 2) taking a more holistic watershed-based approach in planning to maximize benefits and minimize negative impacts on adjacent communities. This program will build off of the Consortium’s model of engaging in meaningful information exchange and knowledge co-production with coastal communities to enhance their resilience. The program is being funded by $750,675 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s National Coastal Resilience Fund and will focus on situationally vulnerable and underserved communities in the Salkehatchie River Basin.

Project Partners

The S.C. Office of Resilience, the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, and S.C. Beach Advocates.

Collaborative Team

Alex Butler, Hope Warren, Bradley Craig, Andrew White – S.C. Office of ResilienceSophia Truempi, Landon Knapp, Dr. Amanda Guthrie, Ke’Ziyah Williamson – S.C. Sea Grant ConsortiumDr. Nicole Elko – S.C. Beach Advocates

Project Location

The watershed-based planning approach is being piloted in the Salkehatchie River Basin, which is one of eight major river basins in South Carolina and is located in the southern portion of the Lowcountry. The Salkehatchie River Basin includes all or portions of 7 counties: Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper.

More Information

Funding awarded from: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – 2022 National Coastal Resilience Fund
Start date: Fall 2023

Contact

For questions, please contact Sophia Truempi at the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium.