Richland County dams show signs of improvement nearly 2 years post flood

Richland County dams show signs of improvement nearly 2 years post flood

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - As the two-month anniversary of the devastating October flood creeps near, a lengthy list of damaged and destroyed dams shrinks.

According to South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control, six of the 24 dams within the Gills Creek Watershed have been repaired, including the Spring Lake Dam where the road connecting neighbors on each side of the lake was reopened 20 months post-flood.

"It's a relief," Spring Lake HOA president Bud Hult said. "We look at this thing from the standpoint of how lucky we are relative to some other neighborhoods. We know there have been some real tragedies with respect to the flooding. Some dams may not be repaired at all."

Several communities spent 2016 assessing damage and seeking funds. People living near Cary's Lake, Beaver Dam Lake, and Rockyford Lake even voted in a special referendum to decide whether they wanted to be taxed for repairs.

Lem Harper has lived near Cary's Lake for the majority of his life. It's not the first time he's seen it sit empty.

"We were going to get it back. There was no question," Harper said. It was just a question of how, how much and how long."

He says it was drained back in the 1980's when a dam repair needed to be made. Still, watching it sit empty once again isn't easy.

"We're in it. We're going to have this lake back by the end of this year," Harper said. "That's a long prediction. I'd like to say we can do it sooner, but we'll have the lake back."

While design standards haven't changed since the October 2015 flood, dams being repaired that were built prior to 1980 require some changes. At that time, the Dams and Reservoirs Safety Act was passed, marking the first time the state regulated dams.

Since the act was passed, permit applications for repairs to spillways have regulatory requirements. Currently, South Carolina lawmakers are looking at legislation that would allow DHEC to inspect private dams.

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