Strollers aren’t yet being advised to tiptoe when they take in the harbor view from the Battery.
But they are not on such firm footing as they might hope.
During a recent high tide, downtown residents saw water gushing through cracks in the seawall sidewalk at Murray Boulevard and Tradd Street and water was standing in the street along High Battery.
It comes as a relief that the city of Charleston will finally begin repairing the iconic, historic Battery, described in a 2004 report as much in need of work.
The city will start by replacing the concrete portion of the Battery that connects High Battery and Low Battery.
According to the report, done by Cummings and McCrady, that portion of the sewall is seriously compromised:
“In its present deteriorated condition, it seems doubtful that the concrete extension of the High Battery seawall could successfully withstand the direct onslaught of a major hurricane without substantial damage.”
The analysis says that if the wall “should be significantly breached during a major hurricane, hurricane driven waves could propel flood waters well into the southeastern portion of the peninsula.”
Replacing that segment, according to city director of public service Laura Cabaniss, should cost $3.2 million (hospitality tax funds) and take about nine months to complete after contracts are let, likely in March.
The city’s aim is to rebuild the stretch to look identical to what exists now, with the possible exception of making High Battery wheelchair accessible where it connects to Low Battery.
The work will necessarily disrupt pedestrian and motor traffic around that portion of the Battery. So it makes sense for the city to take on one stretch at a time.
But the city should not delay repairs to the rest of the Battery any longer than necessary. Already, eight years have passed since the city received the report.
The longer it takes to address the problems, the more extensive they are likely to be and the more expensive to repair. For example, the cost of the upcoming project, $3.2 million, was estimated at $1.2 million in 2004.
The High Battery seawall is in the best shape, but fill under its flagstone walkway has subsided, making the walkway wobbly. Portions of it sag.
Low Battery has sidewalks that slope toward the street, severe cracks and erosion. Steel reinforcing bars have corroded. In some locations, a metal tape measure could be extended several feet into an opening along the face of the seawall.
The Battery is an important part of Charleston’s history. High Battery was built beginning in 1804 after a storm swept away a palmetto log seawall there. Over the years, it has been damaged and repaired as a result of storms.
Low Battery was built in two phases, 1909-1911 and 1917-1919.
The Battery makes peninsula Charleston safer from storms. And it is where couples court, children cavort and anglers wet their lines.
Maintaining it is no small task, but doing so is far more advisable than losing any part of it to neglect.