SC

SC Enviro Agency Previously Studied Dams, Found Problems

REVIEW ANGERED STATE LAWMAKERS …  South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) conducted an extensive review of dams in the Palmetto State beginning in 2013 – and found multiple structures in need of repair and reclassification. Obviously there’s no way of knowing whether the agency’s findings would have…

REVIEW ANGERED STATE LAWMAKERS … 

South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) conducted an extensive review of dams in the Palmetto State beginning in 2013 – and found multiple structures in need of repair and reclassification.

Obviously there’s no way of knowing whether the agency’s findings would have prompted changes sufficient to mitigate the impact of “Floodmaggedon” – nor is there a consensus yet as to what sort of oversight state government ought to have over dams on private property.

We have always subscribed to the belief that government existed to protect liberty and property – and that one person’s liberty ended at the point it threatened the life and property of another.

Where is that point?  It often depends …

What we do know?  At least eleven dams in South Carolina have breached in the aftermath of this week’s disastrous storm – causing widespread devastation.

And a massive bill for taxpayers …

“The combination of multiple days of torrential rainfall alone may have contributed to softening up earthen dams,” AccuWeather’s senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said this week. “The long duration of the high water is putting pressure on the earthen dams to the point of failure.”

RELATED: LIST OF DAM FAILURES IN SOUTH CAROLINA

Anyway, during the SCDHEC study – initiated during the tenure of former agency director Catherine Templeton – each dam had to be reviewed and assigned a new classification.  Many dams were reclassified as “high hazard” during this process because of new development erected downstream in the years succeeding the previous review.

Agency officials referred to the study as “a statewide inventory and reassessment,” its goal being the protection of “life and property” located in the floodplains below the dams – lives and property that weren’t there the last time anyone bothered to look.

Some dams were actually shut down and owners were required to provide engineering reports before they reopened.  Dams newly classified as “high hazard” were subjected to more stringent reviews and engineering inspections.

Needless to say, the agency’s efforts didn’t go over well with politicians.

Multiple state lawmakers – including S.C. Senator Joel Lourie – assailed the agency when it ordered water levels in certain reservoirs lowered.

Other lawmakers – including S.C. Senators Danny Verdin and Thomas Alexander – also raised hell.

“Ironically, their chief complaint was property values being lowered because it was so unsightly,” one source close to the agency told us.

Again … would it have mattered?

Probably not …

“No amount of inspection or engineering edification would have prevented what happened,” the source said, adding, “the very fact that most Columbians don’t have flood insurance is an indicator of how unique this situation is.”

That’s true …

Of course other warnings clearly went unheeded.

Anyway, expect this issue to be raised again as dams across the Palmetto State continue to buckle and break under the weight of storm water.

***

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42 comments

Bible Thumper October 7, 2015 at 11:11 am

This is the most reasonable even handed article you have ever written.

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Rocky Verdad October 7, 2015 at 11:19 am

But – any dam that was found deficient should have been fixed. 2013 to today – and the Legislature ordered them refilled? Reminds me of that movie a few years back with Steve Carroll being Noah after he’s elected to Congress, and the dam breaks!

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Bible Thumper October 7, 2015 at 11:28 am

I’m sure there will be an ivestigatio, but not all deficiencies can be detected. Some will fail even when they pass inspection.

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Rocky Verdad October 7, 2015 at 11:29 am

I recall being in college in SW Virginia during the great 1985 Election Day flood. The entire Roanoke Valley was under water. I also recall making about $400 cleaning out basements and got a soaked nice sectional out of it. Took two bottles of deodorizer to get them smelling right, but worth it.

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Tazmaniac October 7, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Someone call Mrs. Folks and tell her to go to his office with some smelling salts. Stat.

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idcydm October 7, 2015 at 12:25 pm

Smelling salts, he would probably use it on his Margarita glass.

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Manray9 October 7, 2015 at 11:12 am

If I understand this story, DHEC did its job. It surveyed and identified dams with potential problems. And nothing happened? Did the governor’s office or the appropriate legislative committees formally accept the DHEC report? Did they hold public hearings? If so, what official actions were undertaken? Was opposition to DHEC’s efforts only from the individual politicians mentioned? What was done officially or formally? I suspect — nothing. And the sheep will troop dutifully to the polls next year an reelect all the same miscreants. Why does nothing change here?

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Bible Thumper October 7, 2015 at 11:16 am

Looks to me, that changes were made, but will Haley or Templeton who she appointed get credit for lives and property saved?

Some dams were actually shut down and owners were required to provide engineering reports before they reopened.  Dams newly classified as “high hazard” were subjected to more stringent reviews and engineering inspections.
Read more at https://www.fitsnews.com/2015/10/07/sc-enviro-agency-previously-studied-dams-found-problems/#Al2I1BLSlZTzzJ4d.99

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Rocky Verdad October 7, 2015 at 11:27 am

Either way, many didn’t hold. Now call it act of God or whatever, but there should be higher standards when they are rebuilt. And the market will take care of that – as FEMA will redraw flood zone maps and a lot of people will get lovely little letters from the Mortgage servicer saying “You have 90 days to buy Flood Insurance or we’ll force place it on you.”

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stumpknocker October 7, 2015 at 12:02 pm

don’t rebuild the fuckers, let the water flow naturally, if they can’t afford the upkeep on them so they can have a pretty lake and higher property values, they don’t need to be damming the streams.

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vicupstate October 7, 2015 at 11:20 am

That depends, DHEC did an inventory but is it their responsibility to see that conditions are monitored and action taken accordingly afterwards? Was that done? Were newly ‘high hazard’ dams also shut down since 2013?

I am not in a position to know, but those questions need to be asked.

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idcydm October 7, 2015 at 11:16 am

Are there any real lake in SC or are they all man made?

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Bible Thumper October 7, 2015 at 11:22 am

Almost all are man made. Definitely all the larger ones. No ice age glacier made lakes like up north.

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idcydm October 7, 2015 at 11:27 am

When man tries to rearrange Mother Nature eventually she will show you, you can’t.

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Bible Thumper October 7, 2015 at 11:30 am

She will definitely push back, but it is man’s nature to try.

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idcydm October 7, 2015 at 11:43 am

Yes, they will try but if they had to foot the bill for the push back them self, people would become a lot smarter.

When I was young maybe 8 or 9 and lived in the Midwest there was a lot of flooding. I asked my father if we were going to get flooded, he told me no because you always build on the high ground above the water, I’ve never forgotten it.

vicupstate October 7, 2015 at 11:16 am

“the very fact that most Columbians don’t have flood insurance is an indicator of how unique this situation is.”

That’s true …

Nonsense, most people in EVERY locality, do not have flood insurance.

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CNSYD October 7, 2015 at 11:24 am

How do you “shut down” a dam?

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Bible Thumper October 7, 2015 at 11:25 am

Remove or breach it.

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CNSYD October 7, 2015 at 11:28 am

agreed. but I doubt that was done as the remainder of Folks’ sentence states that engineering reports were required before they could “reopen”.

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Mill Pond October 7, 2015 at 11:30 am

Open the spillway, drain the lake, and then close it to fill it back up. Most of these Dams are old mill ponds that were capable of being completely drained in a few days.

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Bible Thumper October 7, 2015 at 11:34 am

He said some were required to lower the lake level.
Some may have failed an initial inspection, but after more extensive engineering studies or upgrades were found to be safe.

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CNSYD October 7, 2015 at 11:37 am

agreed but failing an inspection and then doing more studies and/or upgrades is not a “shut down” in my view.

Bible Thumper October 7, 2015 at 12:21 pm

I have more of a concern about landowners shopping for an “engineer” to approve their dam, but there is no perfect system. Those unscrupulous engineers can face civil, criminal and licencing penalties.

CNSYD October 7, 2015 at 3:09 pm

sort of like shopping for judges, doctors, etc., right?

Bible Thumper October 7, 2015 at 3:33 pm

Yep. See it in my profession, but l’m not revealing it here.

Its a great day in SC October 7, 2015 at 11:40 am

Global warming is not a problem. We have nothing to worry about. It’s a made up thing. Storms will not be more severe. The fact 2013 was the hottest year in recorded history, until the year 2014 means nothing. We need to pass laws saying that regulators cannot even mention global warming or run projections on the effects and cost of global warming. Because, god told us there was no such thing, even if the Pope disagrees.

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idcydm October 7, 2015 at 11:45 am

Yep there’s been Global warming and cooling forever on earth…65,000 years ago this was all ocean front or at the bottom of the ocean.

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Its a great day in SC October 7, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Fortunately most scientists know the difference between multi-millennial climate fluctuations and a short term rapid rapid rise in the global mean temperature, related to greenhouse gases. But you guys don’t believe in science anyway, so what difference does it make.

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idcydm October 7, 2015 at 5:54 pm

I do believe in science and I do believe that man has an influence on climate but to what extent and to how much we can control it, that is where we differ just like all scientist do not all agree. But keep up your condescending comments it’s a sure way to win people over.

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Up Shit Creek October 7, 2015 at 11:53 am

Most earthen dams in SC are noncompliant with current dam construction codes, but are grandfathered under the law unless repairs are undertaken, in which case the dam must be brought up to code. This expense is most often far beyond the financial means of the owners of the dam, who are usually developers or lake owners associations. So the laws in effect prevent dams from being brought up to standard.
Add to this the nonsense of restricting the availability of flood insurance to property owners within flood plain areas as determined by periodic government surveys. This is 180 degrees from what the policy should be, which should be to REQUIRE flood insurance for every federally backed mortgage, regardless of the location of the property. That way you would have millions of people paying flood insurance premiums for properties that cannot flood and will never have a claim, which would create a large source of insurance money for those who need it.
Finally, the City of Columbia should be forced to reimburse money it has been stealing from water and sewer funds for pet projects and general revenue. This has been going on since Mayor Finley, if not before that. Mayor T-Bone Strip Club Shitwater and his pack of thieves are only the latest crooks to belly up to that trough.
But hey we will soon have a nice baseball stadium for about 500 people to watch minor league baseball in 90 degree heat.
In the meantime the public sewer authorities are dumping raw sewage into the river and paying fines to EPA because the municipal governments will not cooperate on a regional plan.
Lesson – GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM.

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William J. Hamilton October 8, 2015 at 11:17 am

So everyone should be allowed to build whatever they want and when it fails and wipes out hundreds of homes downstream, that’s OK? People who paid premium prices for property that is on high ground should subsidize the real estate purchases of people who bought reclaimed swamp land by purchasing flood insurance they’ll never need? Socialized flood insurance and free market dams?

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stumpknocker October 7, 2015 at 11:58 am

been reading some comments from northern states blogs and papers, they are calling us a bunch of dead beat takers who don’t pay for our own infrastructure, they are calling for no fed money or we will become addicted to the government teat. sad to say but they are stating facts, gas tax anyone? oh hell no, gubment needs to keep their hands out of our pockets.

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idcydm October 7, 2015 at 12:05 pm

I’ll tell you what if the state and feds would use the gas tax for roads only I would go along with an increase but we all know that will not happen.

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stumpknocker October 7, 2015 at 12:07 pm

other states manage to do it, our voting majority whines all day long about state’s rights and does nothing about our state’s responsibilities.

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idcydm October 7, 2015 at 12:14 pm

You forgot about mentioning the feds.

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YouWontPostThis October 7, 2015 at 2:01 pm

That’s interesting, since we all pay the same federal taxes under the same code, including gas tax. The FEDERAL portion is the same for everyone, in every state, you moron. It’s the state taxes that vary. But if they want to keep whining and crying, we’ll just take back their payouts for Sandy or the huge snow storm recently.

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Upstate October 7, 2015 at 12:19 pm

My family was effected by the DHEC “reassessment.” While their intent was noble, like all things done by SC government it was done half ass. They reassess the dams using new measurements, etc., but relied on old data for the downstream risk portion of the assessment. In our case they wanted to reclassify a dam that was previously considered low/no risk to a class I (max risk) classification. The risk was based on the possibility of a dam failure washing out a major road way. Only one problem, the data used for the road was for the old road location, which was since moved to a higher location over 30 years ago. When DHEC was called out on it, they backed off of the Class 1 clasification, but still pushed for an increased risk assessment, which carries with it a much larger insurance/bond requirement than presently exist. Their only justification they could come up with essentially amounted to, “well, we think it would be a good idea,” ie. they wanted to show that they had “done something,” regardless of whether any action was actually justified.

Not sure if this was the specific instance that Danny Verdin was involved in, but he is the representative for the area, and would have likely had significant visibility.

PS. no physical changes have been made to the pond dam, and it didn’t come close to failing or over flowing.

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DHEC Distilled October 7, 2015 at 4:35 pm

“they wanted to show that they had “done something,” regardless of whether any action was actually justified.”

Or actually accomplished anything.

DHEC distilled.

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Thornton Melon October 7, 2015 at 2:32 pm

“We have always subscribed to the belief that government existed to protect liberty and property”

“but after considering democide figures, taxes, & eminent domain we realized that belief only exists in fantasy land.”

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nitrat October 7, 2015 at 7:39 pm

” Some dams were actually shut down and owners were required to provide engineering reports before they reopened. ”

How do you ‘shut down’ a dam? Breech it and let all the water flow out?

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