The old Green Diamond development site, once slated for a $1 billion “city within a city,’’ is underwater after last weekend’s rain flooded the Columbia area at levels not seen in decades.
The property, on both sides of Interstate 77, resembled a lake this week. Water filled much of the farmland below the interstate. And the area above the interstate near the Columbia sewer plant also was flooded.
Opponents of the Green Diamond development said flooding over the weekend underscores the point they made for years. A mix of high-end homes, shops and golf courses was planned on the approximately 4,500 acres southeast of town.
“Does it confirm the property would flood? I don’t think there’s any question,’’ said lawyer Mullen Taylor, a member of the Congaree Riverkeeper board.
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Taylor said she hopes the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay attention to the Green Diamond flooding before setting final flood maps for the land. FEMA has proposed loosening some of the controls over development.
The Green Diamond project never materialized and much of the approximately 4,500 acres was sold by the property’s owner, Columbia Venture, to businesses affiliated with state Rep. Kirkman Finlay, who has said he plans to continue farming the land. A chunk of the property closer to the sewer plant was still owned this summer by Columbia Venture, whose founder and major investor was Myrtle Beach developer Burroughs &Chapin.
Much of the flooding likely is related to swollen creeks that “feed a lot of water into that area,’’ said long-time University of South Carolina professor Will Graf, an expert on hydrology. Gills Creek is the major tributary. It swelled into a torrent over the weekend as rains fell and dams broke.
The low-lying Green Diamond floodplain plain also likely ponded up from a deluge of rain over the weekend, Graf and Congaree Riverkeeper Bill Stangler said. Some 2 feet of rain fell in parts of South Carolina. Columbia suffered major property damage. Stangler said he also was trying to determine if one earthen levee had breached and contributed to the flooding. Aerial photos raise questions about one of the old levees, he said.