Highlights from the SIPOA Board of Directors Meeting on September 18, 2017.
After handling the required formalities, SIPOA Board President Ed Houff announced that the meeting’s focus would be on Hurricane Irma damage and SIPOA’s follow-on work.
But first–a couple of items from the Treasurer’s Report. Due to Hurricane Irma, the August Financials were not yet available. After reporting the July Financials, Treasurer John Feldman turned to an important item of note—last year’s $150K+ tax payment for funds received from Comcast. Feldman said that, after additional research and review, our accounting firm changed their earlier position and determined that our Comcast income should be classified as non-taxable royalty income. As a result, we will be filing our 2016 tax return with a request to refund the $150K+ payment we made earlier this year.
The remainder of the meeting was dedicated to a “Special Report on the Results of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irma on Seabrook Island.” Steve Hirsch, SIPOA Director of Engineering, introduced Steve Traynum of Coastal Science and Engineering to report on changes to the beach. Traynum said that the beach held up pretty well, especially in comparison to some of our neighbors. The beach has been recovering since Hurricane Matthew, but Irma set us back farther than Matthew had. The high tide of almost ten feet above Mean Low Water overtopped the dike at North Beach but did not breach it, and also helped to move sand from the ocean toward the shore. Although the storm surge (approximately 6-12 inches higher than Matthew’s) breached the seawall in some places, the seawall fared well overall because winds were generally from the North. The high tide line between Boardwalks 1 and 6 has moved approximately 30-50 feet inland, and there has been significant loss of sand and dune. There are debris and dead myrtles on North Beach; SIPOA will remove some but leave the rest as a basis for dune growth.
Hirsch then reported on various aspects of damage and cleanup. Click here: Irma Damage Assessment. We had only 25 trees down as compared to 100 for Hurricane Matthew. The debris on the roads was also much less, so we were able to use SIPOA’s debris pile rather than the Equestrian Center as a collection point. Boardwalks 1, 3 and 8 sustained structural damage; Boardwalks 1A and 4 were lifted and floated in the storm surge, resulting in an uneven walkway; and Boardwalks 5 and 6 are undamaged but were blocked by downed trees and beach debris.
Hirsch said that all three stormwater pump stations lost power during the storm, but Station #2 had been outfitted with a generator prior to the storm and was able to keep running. Station #1 was outfitted with a small gas pump starting Tuesday morning, and Station #3 resumed operation on Wednesday when Station 2’s generator could be moved to it. There was some other isolated damage—for example, a tree fell on the garden plots fence, and a sinkhole formed over a storm drain pipe adjacent to Cobia Court (the pipe was already scheduled for replacement in 2018).
Next on the agenda was Property Owner Q&A, starting with comments by Board members. Highlights of the Comments and Responses follow:
Storm water Drainage System:
Board President Ed Houff noted that the agenda for the October 16 Get the Scoop gathering will include a more detailed presentation on the Island’s storm drainage system.
Comment: What is the cost to install generators at all three pumping stations?
Response: $60K each.
Comment: Are the storm water drainage system’s pumps adequate for the job?
Response: SIPOA’s pumps are very strong; the limiting factor for drainage is the size of the pipes.
Comment: Certain locations on our roads flood often, even after heavy rainstorms (e.g., Gnarled Pine at Seabrook Island Road and Baywood at Seabrook Island Road). Response: SIPOA’s inspection found that the storm water pump intakes in some areas had become clogged with debris; cleaning is in progress so the pumps can resume normal operation.
Comment: Pine chip mulch from the Lake House migrates to the gutter on Seabrook Island Road, then travels toward the Baywood intersection where it can clog storm drains. Perhaps a border of plants such as creeping fig or liriope could be planted at the edge of the roadway to help contain the mulch.
Comment: SIPOA does street sweeping in the Spring when live oak leaves drop. Perhaps we could institute regular sweeping for mulch and debris throughout the year.
Comment: There are sludge piles on many roads that could clog the pipes.
Response: Sludge piles will be cleared once they have dried.
Comment: The Board’s priority for mitigation projects during this Hurricane season should be drainage and pumps.
Comment: Has the Irma experience taught us anything about boardwalk materials, construction methods, etc.?
Response: Some significant damage was due to the loss of about 5 feet of sand at the ends of the boardwalks. The lesson from this is that pilings must be installed to a much deeper level at the ends of the boardwalks so they will hold when sand is lost.
Comment: Is it possible to insure the boardwalks?
Response: SIPOA’s insurance company does not insure boardwalks and roadways.
Lakes and Lagoons:
Comment: Even though water level in the Lakes area was lowered to 2 feet below normal, the high tides/storm surge caused some flooding there. It then took two days to drain the roads.
Response: Irma’s storm surge was one foot higher than the surge from Hurricane Matthew. It caused water from the marsh to flow over the weir, flooding the lake system and nearby roads.
Comment: The lagoon flooding behind Tarpon Pond is worsening; why can’t there be better cooperation between Club and SIPOA on pond/lagoon maintenance?
Response: There are disagreements in some instances between the Club and SIPOA about responsibility for certain areas of storm water drainage, but we are working on those.
President Ed Houff provided some statistics on Irma-related communications: SIPOA issued 27 eBlasts, including 17 on behalf of the Town; the Town issued 20 eBlasts and 26 Twitter posts; and Tidelines republished all 27 SIPOA eBlasts plus 10 additional posts. 92% of SIPOA Property Owners are enrolled in the eBlast roster. Tidelines has 1,543 Followers plus 491 who follow via Facebook and Twitter. The Town has 3,160 people enrolled in Code Red communications.
Comment: Thanks to SIPOA for a great job with communications during the storm.
Comment: Many evacuated residents were eager for information about conditions in their specific areas so they could decide when to return. Could we find a way to report on conditions, such as publishing an island map with markings to indicate areas with/without power, areas with flooding, etc., and publish updated maps as conditions change?
Comment: Stronger efforts are needed to encourage people to leave the island for a storm because of the likelihood that telephone, Internet, and power will not be available.
Response: We can always improve, but the fact is that Ed Houff’s President’s Letter (in Seabrooker, eBlast, and Tidelines) warned of the importance of evacuation and the absence of services during the storm. The Town, SIPOA, and Tidelines presented this information in a number of additional messages.
Comment: There was no way to communicate during the time that power and cell service were not working. Seabrook should devise another way to communicate during these times so people on the island can learn content of SIPOA and Town messages.
Response: Pre-storm messaging was pretty clear in saying that there is nothing anyone can do for you during a storm.
Comment: CERT (Seabrook Island’s Community Emergency Response Team) had ten people patrolling the island on Saturday and Sunday prior to Irma’s Monday arrival. The CERT members’ impression was that most people had left the island even though there was no evacuation order.
Planning for Future Response to Emergencies:
Comment: Will there be an effort to quantify the level of the surge for use in future planning?
Response: A committee was formed in 2016 following Hurricane Matthew to examine problems and consider the need for mitigation efforts; SIPOA plans to reactivate the group to look at Hurricane Irma in the same way.
Comment: Charleston County is collecting information from residents to track damage, flood levels, etc., so they can improve their planning for mitigation. To file a “Citizen Damage Report,” go to https://www.crisistrack.com/public/charlestonSC/citizenRequest.html.
Response: SIPOA’s Board has discussed gathering input directly from Property Owners about damage to their properties. Follow-on Comment: It could be useful to ask Owners to also provide information about their damage from Hurricane Matthew to establish a point of comparison.
Comment: Is the Board planning to ensure we have sufficient capital to cover expenses resulting from an emergency, e.g., for flooding repair/mitigation, cell phone service improvements, purchase of generators, installation of larger pipes, etc.
Response: The Board’s Executive Committee has been discussing this. Ed Houff provided some specifics about the dramatic increase in annual rainfall in recent years: Average annual rainfall from 2007 to 2013 was approximately 35 inches/year; in 2014 we had 44 inches; in 2015 and 2016 we had 55 inches; and in 2017 we have had greater than 40 inches through the end of August.
Comments: Why isn’t Berkeley Electric’s equipment being moved to a higher level given the experience from the recent storms? It is very concerning that Berkeley Electric’s transformers were so severely affected by the storm surge. It would be valuable to have further meetings with officials of Berkeley Electric to urge them to develop and share a long-range plan for dealing with our new high-water reality.
Response: Talks with Berkeley have already begun; they are being led by the Town of Seabrook Island as part of their responsibility under the Town’s Comprehensive Emergency Plan.
Gate House Flooding:
Comments: Might the Gate House water intrusion be due to a design or installation error? Should there be claims against contractors for flooding of the new Gate House?
Response: The Gate House had only 3 to 4 inches of water in some areas of the building, and that was quickly cleaned up using a shop vac. SIPOA is self-insured for flood at the Gate House.
Comment: What is the delay in installing SIPOA’s new $30K computer system?
Response: The $30K is for software that will be installed on existing hardware. The startup date for its use has long been planned for October 15, 2017, after the heavy visitor season has ended.
Comment: There is a 5-foot sinkhole next to the Spinnakers.
Minutes of this September 18th meeting will be published on the SIPOA website following their approval at the October Board Meeting.
The next SIPOA Board Meeting will be on Monday, October 16th at 1pm. Get the Scoop will be held on the same day in the Live Oak Room of the Lake House starting at 5pm.
-Submitted by Tidelines Staff