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CCU to announce Smart River Research program on May 17

May 14, 2021

The Coastal Carolina University Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies has developed a new program that will use advanced technology to monitor, gauge, and develop strategies to address flooding in Horry and Georgetown counties. The center’s Smart River Research program, which is being supported by private sector partners and key scientific institutions, will be unveiled on Monday, May 17, at 11 a.m. at Horry County’s Osprey Marina.

Those scheduled to speak at the event include Daniel Ennis, CCU’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs; S.C. Sen. Stephen Goldfinch; S.C. Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford; Horry County Councilman Cam Crawford; Duke Energy’s S.C. state president Mike Callahan; Paul Gayes, director of the Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies; Gettys Brannon, CEO of the S.C. Boating and Fishing Alliance; S.C. Chief Resilience Officer Ben Duncan; and retired Maj. Gen. Tom Mullikin, chair of the S.C. Floodwater Commission.

During the event, Gayes will explain the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) funding through the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association toward meeting the broader statewide need for flood monitoring. The focus of this program is aiding the Pee Dee/Waccamaw Basin.

CCU has served at the forefront of meaningful research on coastal and river issues with support from the likes of NOAA and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The deployment of water level sensors via a demonstration project at Osprey Marina includes sensors from an NSF RAPID grant that developed low-cost sensors to improve flood modeling. Private sector funding ($100,000) from the Duke Energy Foundation will enable increasing resolution beyond the regional coverage in place through U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) stream flow gauges in tributaries, neighborhoods, and areas between USGS gauges.

“I would like to express my appreciation to the Duke Energy Foundation,” said Michael Roberts, dean of the Gupta College of Science at CCU. “Their funding supports and recognizes the University’s leadership in this important endeavor.”

“Duke Energy has a long history of working with communities along shared river basins to ensure that both strong economies and a thriving natural habitat can coexist,” Callahan said. “We are grateful for the opportunity to connect with the expertise at Coastal Carolina University and help foster additional public-private partnerships to further the work of the governor’s Floodwater Commission. Supporting this ongoing research is critical for our shared future, and I hope our involvement helps pave the way for future private-sector partners to participate as well.”

Deployment of the technology will be supplemented by a June stakeholder/agency workshop to optimize locations for optimum benefit. CCU research professors and graduate students will add a rain gauge to the site to help address the larger heterogeneity of rain fall in the system and validate satellite data. That data will be shared with the National Weather Service forecast model through the Burroughs & Chapin Center’s participation in the National Mesonet Program. The S.C. State Guard Search and Rescue Command will assist with deployment of this technology.

According to Gayes, the data also will further advance the center’s Hurricane Genesis and Outlook (HUGO) model system. The model has made large advancements by interactively coupling ocean-atmosphere-wave and how flood models better represent the large role the ocean has on the area’s weather and water distribution pathways. He says the new data stations will allow further refinements and increase in resolution of the capability developed at CCU.