Lakes become wastelands in flood stricken communities

Updated: Jul. 5, 2017 at 5:14 PM EDT
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RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Close to two years after more than 50 dams breached in the October 2015 flood, the Department of Transportation says nearly a dozen privately owned dams still sit in limbo.

Others have already made the decision not to rebuild. At Pine Tree Lake in the Gills Creek Watershed, the Department of Health and Environmental Control says the owners have proposed removing the dam.

In cases like those, DHEC says the lake's allowed to return to its natural state. For many, that's a creek or stream surrounded by a meadow that could grow into the forest over the years.

Meanwhile, DOT's worked with 26 private dam owners who have state roads running over their breached dams.

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

"It's a very complex system where we've got a public road sitting on top of a private dam. It's also been an issue working through some of these because the lakes have been here for so long they've been passed down over generations and over time," Chief Engineer of Operations Andy Leaphart said. "We can't determine who owns the dam, so that's been a struggle for us as well."

Leaphart says they've already come to a resolution with ten of those dam's owners, but a dozen is still deciding what to do.

On Lake Elizabeth in northeast Richland County, the homeowner's association chose to abandon their lake, giving DOT the green light to do the work it needs to rebuild the road.

That should also include work some stream restoration for the now empty lake. Right now, the docks attached to many of the lakeside homes seem to float in a sea of weeds.

That's project's awaiting a contract to be awarded.

Others, like the dam at Caughman Pond on Zeigler Road in Eastover, may never come back. Its owner petitioned to close that portion of the road. DOT agreed, saying few cars travel it each day.

The next step will be a hearing on July 27. Once a judge gr ants the request, DOT will work with the owner to ensure the road is blocked or removed.

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