S.C. leaders aim to preserve lands in the Palmetto State

Experts seeking solutions to help mitigate disastrous flooding like that experienced in Columbia and central S.C. in 2015

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, S.C. Floodwater Commission Chairman Tom Mullikin, S.C. Sen. George “Chip” Campsen, S.C. Sen. Ronnie Sabb, and others traveled Aug. 3 to Andrews, S.C. – on the flood-prone Georgetown-Williamsburg County line – where they met to discuss a bold plan aimed at doubling the state’s existing three-million acres of protected lands by 2050.

The plan has been outlined in a new bill, THE CONSERVATION AND ANTIQUITIES ACT, which lawmakers will introduce in the next legislative session.

“This Act will accomplish multiple goals,” said Mullikin, who Gov. McMaster tapped to lead the S.C. Floodwater Commission upon establishing it in late 2018 following a spate of disastrous flood events across the Palmetto State beginning with the 1,000-year flood event which wreaked havoc on Columbia and the Midlands in 2015.

“By preserving an additional three-million acres for future generations of South Carolinians, we are also strengthening the economies of rural communities in and around those protected lands,” said Mullikin. “We are also simultaneously increasing a natural firewall of support against severe flooding which has plagued this state since at least 2015.”

The new bill authored by Campsen stems from the findings by the S.C. Floodwater Commission in its 400-page official report presented to the Governor in late 2019. The weighty document, which included in-depth contributions from each of the Floodwater Commission’s 10 task forces (subcommittees), described the myriad challenges specific to each of the task force’s areas of responsibility and provided detailed recommendations and suggested solutions for each of those challenges.

Monies raised through the Conservation and Antiquities Act would include a “25 cents for every $1.30 collected” feature, as well as a sales tax revenue allocation from “the sale of outdoor recreational equipment used to support deferred maintenance and management needs on public lands managed by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, the S.C. Forestry Commission and S.C. State Parks,” according to the Charleston Post & Courier.

“These are but some of the many creative ideas we are bringing to bear in our fight against future flood events,” said Mullikin. “What Senator Campsen has written into this bill is not only necessary, but forward thinking. Moreover, by ensuring the future protection of these lands, we are ensuring our state’s natural beauty and the fragile eco-systems so vital to all of us.”

Posting on social media hours after the meeting on the lush ‘Cyprus Preserve on the Black River’ near the town of Andrews, Gov. McMaster said, “When future generations look back, conservation will be part of our legacy and I’m proud to say we are doing our part.”

The S.C. Floodwater Commission exists to seek and develop solutions and to identify and implement short-term and long-term recommendations to alleviate and mitigate flood impacts to S.C., with an emphasis on S.C.’s coastal communities as well as river-based communities like Columbia.