This is one way Conway is fighting back against potential flooding along the riverfront

Drone video of Conway, SC, and cresting of the Waccamaw River

Floodwaters from Hurricane Florence's deluge of rain crest in the seat of Horry County, Conway, S.C.
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Floodwaters from Hurricane Florence's deluge of rain crest in the seat of Horry County, Conway, S.C.

The City of Conway has added 152 acres of riverfront property to its corridor of conserved land in its efforts to mitigate future flood risks.

The forested parcel, along the Waccamaw River north of Cox Ferry Lake Recreation Area, was transferred to the city May 16 for $280,000, according to Horry County online land records.

The deal was executed as part of a partnership among the city, the land owners, Winyah Rivers Alliance and Open Space Institute, according to a news release from the institute.

Funding for the purchase was provided by the North American Wetlands Conservation Act Program and Duke Energy’s Water Resources Fund, the release states.

Maria Whitehead, the institute’s southeast senior project manager, said they identified this property as a priority for flood mitigation efforts more than a year ago, and it’s now part of a corridor of 1,400 acres of conserved land in that area.

The property, which they’re labeling the Westmoreland Preserve, isn’t under a conservation easement — which legally restricts development in perpetuity — but Whitehead said it’s under a similar deed restriction due to requirements associated with the grants used in the purchase.

Westmoreland Preserve Property 1.jpg
Mac Stone Courtesy of Open Space Institute

She added that this property wasn’t threatened by development because it’s wetlands, but its trees could have been cut down for sale.

“This ensures this land will be able to continue serving the same flood mitigation function as it has in the past,” Whitehead said.

She explained that these lands provide a buffer against flooding, holding and slowing millions of gallons of water that would otherwise overtake residents’ homes and city streets, which occurred most recently last year following Hurricane Florence.

“Experiencing three catastrophic floods in four years has taught us that we need to focus on efforts to remove development from harm’s way and prevent future development where we know flooding will occur,” Adam Emrick, city administrator, said in the release. “The more natural land that is conserved in the floodplain, the more storage capacity there is to hold the floodwaters. This tract marks Conway’s commitment to taking those steps that are available to address flooding issues.”

Whitehead added that Conway is also looking at this land as a potential future recreational asset as a connection between downtown Conway and Coastal Carolina University.

The $280,000 purchase price is a presumed a bargain sale, she said, which means that the former land owners could get a tax break in South Carolina based on the difference between the sale price and actual market value, but they must obtain an appraisal to substantiate that difference.

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Investigative project reporter David Weissman joined The Sun News after three years working at The York Dispatch in Pennsylvania, where he earned awards for his investigative reports on topics including health, business, politics and education.