Group rallies support to tackle Columbia flooding issues

The Rocky Branch Creek Watershed Alliance presents flooding and development data to Columbia City Council Tuesday.

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - If you live in the Columbia area it's very likely you have driven past or over the Rocky Branch Creek.

On a clear day the Rocky Branch doesn't look like much of a problem as it flows through the heart of Columbia under Main and Whaley Streets and Five Points. You maybe never even knew it was there until a rain storm hit. Heavy rains can cause damaging floods in the region.

A group of local business owners, representatives from USC and city and county engineers, known as the Rocky Branch Watershed Alliance, is keeping an eye on the area. The Alliance met with Columbia city council and other city officialsTuesday presenting flood data about the area. The stadium property sits in the Rocky Branch floodplain.

The possible sale of the old Capital City Stadium property has rebooted interest in fixing a problem that was addressed, but never fixed, nearly a decade ago. "I actually believe it is irresponsible to sell a piece of public property simply with the condition that it not make things worse," said Ryan Nevius, executive director of

Sustainable Midlands


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Atlanta-based developer Bright-Myers wants to use the Capital City Stadium property to build retail space, which could include a Walmart. Opponents of the sale say a big-box store development like that would hurt local businesses in the area. Supporters say it would give Columbia an economic boost by creating hundreds of jobs. There is also the environmental concern.

Columbia officials met with the potential developers of the stadium property this week. They say the company has made alterations to their plans that speak directly to flooding.

Still, the newly-formed Rocky Branch Watershed Alliance, they have only had two meetings so far, has its concerns. They would like city council to hold off on approving the land sale until reviewing more data. They are not opposed to development, in fact, they offered an alternative to city leaders, pointing to the

Charlotte area's Metropolitan development

as a way to better manage flooding and stimulate growth. However, that is years and millions of dollars away.

"We have an opportunity to create a sense of place and to take Five Points, one of our most densely located areas of the city and actually open that to our Riverwalk and to connect our city in a way that would make us a world-class city,"said Nevius.

City leaders have held off on making a final decision on the land sale for more than a month, but, a decision could come as early as next week. On Tuesday, councilwoman Belinda Gergel asked council to review the data before taking a vote on the land deal and noted the Rocky Branch Watershed Alliance offers a potentially "exciting" alternative.

Even if the sale gets the green light, the efforts of the Rocky Branch team will not dry up.

"They're not looking at this as the project started two weeks ago and it will end when the city council decides on what they do with this property. This project may go on for five or six years," said Merritt McHaffie of the Five Points Association.

"The sale of this land is very important. But it's also about the long term effects of Rocky Branch and how if effects not only the Five Points neighborhood, but all the neighborhoods that surround us."

It is highly likely Columbia city council will make a final decision on the land deal next week.

What do you think Columbia city council should do about the possible sale of the Capital City Stadium property? Should they approve the deal and make way for possible retail space that include a Walmart or consider the Rocky Branch Watershed Alliance's proposal?