Legislators consider bill requiring state regulation of private dams

Updated: May. 25, 2017 at 6:54 AM EDT
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LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Bills to regulate private dams more closely are filed in the State House. Some lawmakers say The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control should be able to inspect them, especially the dams under more traveled roads, so people can be prepared and safer in case there are issues detected.

But people living near one of those dams are among some of those against the idea, believing the closer watch would do no good to their dam, when it's the road the Department of Transportation paved that washed away.

It's been more than one year since Wilton Road in Lexington County was passable, thanks to the historic flood of 2015.

RELATED: See flooding photos from October's historic flooding.

MORE: Dramatic before and after photos of flooding across the Midlands in 2015.

"The biggest problem was that three ponds up above us burst due to all that heavy rain and came down into our pond," said resident Bob Perry.

But some neighbors are in no hurry to re-open the two lanes to traffic, saying it would only put more traffic on the streets.

"No, because there's so much traffic here the highway department tells us statistics show that it's 5,400 cars go up and down this road every day," Perry said.

Where some roads are being repaired, there's an impasse here.

It's got a big hole, you can't get across," Perry said.

People who live there say fixing the gaping hole on Wilton Road is easier said than done, and they don't even find it necessary.

"That we would have to fix the dam. We would have to pay for it," Perry said. "And they would come there and put asphalt on top of what we had just done, and we'd have to fix it to their specifications which was going to be a very costly thing, around a million dollars."

Some lawmakers believe there wouldn't have been a problem in the first place if the Department of Health and Environmental Control had been able to inspect private dams prior—and a bill filed would mandate that.

"Just in case you know, what we had happen in 2015 where we had so many dams that were breached by the flood, they would have been inspected and we would have known ahead of time that there was a problem," said Senator Katrina Shealy of Lexington.

Some lawmakers feel it's a safety measure for drivers. But not all agree that would prevent roads from washing out.

"In our particular case, no, because the part that's still down there is the original dam. It was no damage done to it," Perry said.

There are bills for more private dam regulations in both the House and Senate, but they have stalled. Neither is law yet.

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