Charleston Adopts New Stormwater Regulations

Staff Report From Charleston CEO

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

The Charleston region is at the epicenter of national politics this week, but we’re focused on issues closer to home – specifically stormwater.

On Tuesday, the City of Charleston adopted a new Stormwater Design Standards Manual. The final vote (10-1 to approve) came with little fanfare or floor discussion; a surprise considering that this policy-making process has been underway for more than a year.

A sizable stakeholder group representing a broad cross-section of constituents was assembled to inform the process. It included private sector engineers and design professionals, and chamber staff participated throughout.

As with any policy document this dense (the manual is 218 pages) and this complex (what is the appropriate formula to calculate water travel time in a vegetative filter strip?) there were some disagreements. Even after adoption, several concerns linger. Added clarity on the process for City Council review/approval of “special protection areas” is a particularly big one. Other issues are certain to arise with implementation and practical testing on actual projects.

That’s why adoption of the manual is not the final step in this policy-making process… it’s more like a major milestone. The stakeholder group will stay together for frequent meetings throughout 2020 to assess implementation. Technical training sessions are also planned. The City of Charleston has also committed to an extensive review of the manual’s effectiveness next February.

The first sentence on the first content page (pg.4) of the manual states: “This manual is intended to be a dynamic document with revisions made as new design criteria or technology evolve.” For an issue as important as stormwater management, a commitment to reassess is essential.

The Charleston Metro Chamber supports local governments adopting stormwater regulations that are “clear, objective, effective, rooted in science, forward-looking and appropriately tailored to specific areas.” Our position is part of a larger policy statement on flooding, sea level rise and stormwater management adopted last year. This revision of the Stormwater Design Standards Manual makes progress over prior policy on those key factors.

We are grateful that private sector stakeholders have been included in the policy making process, and will continue to be included in the refinement process.