Rising sea levels changing Charleston's approach to the future

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — The Battery at Charleston Harbor is one of many draws for tourists and locals. But many people aren't aware of how rising sea levels are forcing city officials to rethink how they solve related problems like flooding.

Clemson University has a new plan to teach students how to navigate Charleston's changing dynamics.

Even on a beautiful day, the sea walls at The Battery take a beating. City leaders say rising sea levels should be taken seriously. Now, a new area of study will teach students how to protect Charleston's evolving waterfront.

Ray Huff leads the Clemson Architecture Center. He explained how the school will soon add a new degree program to tackle issues facing cities like Charleston.

"Fabric in terms of its built environment," Huff said of the Clemson area. "It's a coastal city. We have areas of this city that are about four to five feet above sea level. There are challenges there. It's an extraordinarily attractive destination."

Huff said the new master of urban resilient design will teach students about population growth, increasing traffic and rising coastal tides.

"How do we adopt and respond to that in a way that protects what we cherish about Charleston, but prepares Charleston for the future?" he said.

Charleston already has an office dedicated to these challenges. Mark Wilbert is in charge of it.

"We're a city that has a lot of really good stuff going on. But we're also a city that's challenged by Mother Nature in a couple or three different ways. And this is a wonderful place for students to come and put their trades to work."

It's a new trade Ray Huff is ready to teach.

"We are convinced that there is a significant need for this," Huff said.

Wilbert believes there could be a partnership between Clemson and the city.

The Clemson Architecture Center still needs to hire a director for the program, but officials hope to launch it next year.

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