New design for Charleston's Low Battery

Charleston has decided that this design would work best for the Low Battery seawall, which has to be repaired and elevated to protect the peninsula from sea level rise and severe storm surge. Charleston Design Center/Provided

Charleston's City Council will consider asking the State Infrastructure Bank for a $32 million grant to build up the nearly 100-year-old Low Battery seawall 2½ to 3 feet higher and match the height of the High Battery. 

The total cost of the project is estimated at $64 million with the city funding half of it.

Currently, the city has $23 million set aside and would commit the next 10 years' of the city's Accommodations Tax and Hospital fees to make up the difference. For years, the city has put aside $2 million or $3 million in funding for the project.

Initial plans to build up the nearly 4,800 feet of seawall were revisited after waves from Hurricane Matthew crashed over the proposed height of the seawall, Mayor Tecklenburg said Thursday. 

"I think obviously we have a local interest in protecting the city from sea level rise and storm surge, but the reality is this is also an iconic destination for the state of South Carolina — the Battery at Charleston," Tecklenburg said.

"We feel like it meets the grant application requirements not just from improving the roadway and mobility but also from an economic development point of view," he said.

The city had a pre-bid conference meeting Wednesday to review qualifying bidders to elevate the seawall from the Coast Guard station to Ashley Boulevard, the first phase of the project. If the city secures grant funding from the SIB, it would have the means to complete the project and meet the High Battery. 

The area of the Coast Guard base and Ashley Boulevard is in the worst condition, Tecklenburg said, making it a priority ahead of other areas. That work could begin as early as January, said Matthew Fountain, the city's director of Stormwater Management.

Water floods the Low Battery during Tropical Storm Irma on Sept. 11, 2017. File/Matthew Fortner/Staff

Tecklenburg said he learned from the state Department of Transportation commission's chairman that the SIB would accept applications for projects costing as low as $25 million. 

"It would just add to our funding more immediately and allow us to get this job done in a quicker fashion," Tecklenburg said. "Every dollar that we get in the form of a grant from the state is another dollar that we can spend on another drainage project somewhere else." 

Design of the new Low Battery also includes posts to add 2½-to-3-foot barriers on top of the wall for additional protection from storm surge, Tecklenburg said. 

Some parking along the Low Battery would be compromised to incorporate stairways and ramps to the new, elevated sidewalk. 

While work on the Low Battery takes place, Charleston Water and Dominion Energy plans to redo utility connections, Tecklenburg said. 

Tecklenburg said it is unique to seek SIB funding for a renovation project, because typically funding goes to new construction.

"If you think about it, this is a 100-year-old piece of infrastructure that is iconic to our state's economy," Tecklenburg said. 

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Reach Mikaela Porter at 843-937-5906. Follow her on Twitter @mikaelaporterPC. 

Mikaela Porter joined The Post and Courier in April 2019 and writes about the city of Charleston. Previously, Mikaela reported on breaking news, local government, school issues and community happenings for The Hartford Courant in Hartford, Conn.