The city of Myrtle Beach will spend $75 million to enhance its stormwater systems throughout the next few years to keep track with development and update its existing infrastructure.

The city’s Capital Improvement Plan allocates $9.2 for beach renourishment, while outfall maintenance and stormwater planning and maintenance will receive over $30 million each. 

“The system will need to grow with the north end of the city,” said Myrtle Beach Chief Financial Officer Michelle Shumpert. “We have aging infrastructure in other areas as well that will need to be upgraded.”

The CIP, which funds a variety of projects, begins July 1 and will continue through the next five fiscal years.

Fiscal year 2021-22 will be a designing phase due to pandemic-related delays and pending grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

Beach nourishment will not begin until fiscal year 2025.

"$9.2 million is the city's potential cost share of a project down the road of periodic nourishment that is associated with the federal Army Corps of Engineers," said Myrtle Beach Public Works Director Janet Curry. "Every 8-10 years there's a periodic nourishment cycle."

Stormwater infrastructure is critical in Myrtle Beach, where heavy rain events and flooding are common.

To pay for capital projects and operations, the city’s budget for FY21-22 raised monthly fees to $7.63 per equivalent residential unit. (The size of an average home is 1 ERU.)

“(Fees) will go into what we call a special revenue fund, where fees are maintained and only used for particular projects or operations,” said Shumpert. 

Before proposing the fee hike, the city conducted a rate study of systems in comparable areas like Hilton Head and Charleston.

“We did a rate study and looked at our rates and our operations and infrastructure needs,” said Shumpert. “We still remain the lowest in our area.”

According to city documents, the rate study determined that revenue from the previous fee would not cover the cost of operations or necessary capital improvements.

The rate study itself followed recommendations from the city’s 2018 study of Withers Basin, considered to be the largest basin in Myrtle Beach at 3.2 miles.

“It took our existing infrastructure and looked at stormwater quantity and localized flooding conditions,” Curry said. “And it looked at how existing infrastructure can be retrofitted to address stormwater quality concerns.”

The study found that growth and development has contributed to the need for new infrastructure, as have environmental concerns like runoff, erosion, and channel stability.

In addition to the city’s Master Plan, Curry said the Public Works Department will apply for FEMA Hazard Mitigation grants and BRICK grants to fund stormwater projects.

The city is looking to perform a wholistic evaluation of the city’s stormwater system in the near future.

You can reach Jonathan Haynes securely over Signal at 910-679-6902, send him encrypted files through Keybase at https://keybase.io/jonathanhaynes, or contact him via email at jonathan.haynes@myhorrynews.com

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