Columbia Water and FEMA Come to Fundamental Agreement on Scope of Canal Work
Sep 17, 2020

Columbia, SC – Sept. 17, 2020 – The City of Columbia/Columbia Water announced today that they have come to a fundamental agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance program on the scope of damage to the Columbia Canal from the historic flooding that took place in the Midlands in 2015. This fundamental agreement is the culmination of years of negotiations with the federal agency and signals the beginning of the repair process for the canal and hydroelectric plant. FEMA PA is coordinated by the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD).

“It has been a been a lengthy and highly technical process to demonstrate to FEMA and other agencies the extent of damage that the flood caused to the canal and power plant,” said Clint Shealy, Assistant City Manager for Columbia Water. “However, the second half of the equation was to come to an agreement with FEMA on what the damages were in order to determine how much funding could be provided. Today, we are pleased to announce that we have reached this milestone and can move forward with the project.”

Both the City and FEMA have identified approximately $42 million in damages as a result of the 2015 historic floods. The scope of work includes repairing the breach to the canal, fixing damaged sections of the canal embankment and repairing the hydroelectric plant at the south end of the canal to return green power to the City of Columbia.

Additional necessary work that does not fall under FEMA’s scope is replacing the headgates at the north end of the canal. However, a separate federal funding source is being sought for those repairs.

“We are excited to finally be moving forward, but we do want the public to understand that this will be a multi-faceted project that will take years to complete,” said Shealy. “And there may be some inconveniences to visitors of Riverfront Park as we move along, including closures from time to time to move equipment in and out.”

The first step in the repair process is an Environmental Assessment of the canal that will include an archeological survey. The survey began this week and will include geological borings along the canal embankment. It is expected to last through December 2020. The length of the remainder of the project has yet to be determined.

“We appreciate everyone’s patience as we begin this phase of making Columbia whole again from the devastating flood of 2015,” said Shealy. “We will provide updates of the project though traditional and social media as we move forward.”