Horry County’s flooding challenges have inspired many proposals for addressing the problem, but there have been few viable solutions presented.

Some leaders still cling to the notion of carving a canal from the Waccamaw River to the Little River area to divert floodwater, despite federal and state officials’ concerns about the cost and environmental impact of such a project. Still others want to blame North Carolina dams or increased growth for worsening the disasters that have plagued the county in recent years. 

Yet one proposed solution makes obvious sense: buying out frequently flooded properties.

The idea is not new and has been done in Horry County before. After Hurricane Floyd in 1999, buyouts helped remove nearly two dozen vulnerable homes in Conway. There’s no doubt those houses would have flooded again from Hurricane Joaquin in 2015, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Florence in 2018 if they had not been destroyed.

That’s why we’re pleased that county officials made buyouts the central focus of their request for $30 million in flood mitigation and resilience funding last month.

The county is seeking $17.7 million that could be used to buy frequently flooded homes in the county’s most vulnerable communities. If funding for the program is approved, those houses could then be razed and development would not be allowed on that land.

Buyouts are not a short-term fix. There’s a lengthy approval process and not every flood victim qualifies for the program. But they can be a valuable tool. 

The idea is to assist people in moving and avoiding situations where public money is repeatedly spent to restore the same vulnerable properties. 

We’re also pleased that county leaders are eyeing other stormwater infrastructure projects in the S.C. 905 and U.S. 701 South corridors. That construction could alleviate some of the flooding in those communities.

But the buyouts should be a primary focus. They get people out of harm’s way, they allow them to start fresh and they ensure other folks are not trapped in the same terrible cycle of flooding and rebuilding.

County leaders would be wise to spend more time pursuing viable long-term solutions like this than chasing expensive and potentially damaging projects that waste public money and don’t make the area any more resilient.

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