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Commentary: New investments in coastal resilience and ports will benefit South Carolina

Zach Bjur

Posted on August 28, 2023

South Carolina’s coast is one of the most beautiful in the world. It drives our economy, our cuisine and our lifestyle. But all of those things are under threat from extreme heat, flooding and damaging storms that have been on the rise and are projected to worsen. Luckily, we have the opportunity to invest in South Carolina’s resilience now so we can adapt to these challenges and create a thriving future for our state.

The S.C. Office of Resilience, established by the General Assembly in 2020, released its first report in late June with recommendations for increasing resiliency throughout the state. These recommendations come at an opportune time. Unprecedented federal funding from the federal Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act can bring historic investments to South Carolina, including funding for promoting coastal resilience and port infrastructure.

Many projects in South Carolina are already benefiting from the Inflation Reduction Act, with $15.5 million heading our way for coastal resilience projects. The Nature Conservancy received a grant to install living shorelines in underserved communities and with the military and to create a coastal resilience implementation plan using nature-based projects to be installed over the next 10 years. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources received funding to improve saltmarsh resilience through habitat restoration — improving our water quality and supporting our state’s fisheries. And Audubon South Carolina will receive funds to work with local officials and communities around Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge to co-develop nature-based solutions that will increase the resilience of the area and enhance wildlife habitat.

Projects like these are an integral part of a holistic approach to resilience in South Carolina and are vital to our state’s future. Strong and adaptive green infrastructure is the first defense against the increased flooding we’re already seeing in cities in the Lowcountry and the Grand Strand.

South Carolina needs to prepare its ports for the future as well, a fact that the Office of Resilience recognizes in its recent recommendation to incorporate resilience in port infrastructure planning. The federal government is providing $3 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean ports program that will help decarbonize shipping and electrify our ports, keeping South Carolina’s ports on the cutting edge and improving air quality and public health in the frontline communities around them. Some of our state’s ports have already benefited from these investments, with the State Ports Authority receiving federal grants to purchase electric tugboats and barges that reduce emissions and fuel costs for the Port of Charleston, but South Carolina must be intentional in pursuing more funding.

These examples could, and should, be the first of many as South Carolina builds resilience into its coastal infrastructure and throughout the state. The Office of Resilience’s recommendations cannot fall on deaf ears. South Carolina must do everything possible to take advantage of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act so our state is prepared to weather an uncertain future.

As we recognize the first anniversary of President Joe Biden signing of the Inflation Reduction Act, we should all celebrate the investments that have already flowed to our state. U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn’s leadership was critical to ensuring passage of this monumental legislation. In addition to celebrating, we must continue to push for these critical investments to come to South Carolina. Our just, healthy and climate-resilient future depends upon it.

Zach Bjur is the Land, Water, Ocean Project Manager for Conservation Voters of South Carolina.


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