David Wilson from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) addressed the Dam Safety Ad Hoc Committee to give members an update on the current status of dams across South Carolina. He informed the Committee that DHEC has been working continuously with dam owners affected by last year’s flood. In addition to the brief update, Mr. Wilson also presented several proposals that DHEC would like to have included in a potential new bill that will be introduced at the beginning of session. These proposals include:
Annual Notification / Registration for All Regulated Dams:
- This will ensure that proper documentation is on-file regarding dams and that the information is current.
- Require dam owners to inspect their dams and fill out a pre-printed checklist that would be submitted to DHEC yearly.
- For highly vulnerable dams, DHEC wants to ensure that dam owners have emergency action plans in place to notify residents downstream if a breach is imminent.
Provide Regulation for Current “Non-Regulated Dams”:
- Currently in SC, dams that are under 25 feet in height or impound less than 50 acre feet of water are currently unregulated.
- DHEC found that numerous “Non-Regulated Dams” caused significant damage to infrastructure and property during the 2016 flood.
Require a Professional Engineer to Inspect Certain Classes of Dams:
- DHEC proposed that this is especially needed for “High Hazard Dams” (every 5 years) and for “Significant Hazard Dams” (every 10 years).
Representative Russell Ott also informed the Committee of another ongoing problem across the State regarding dams that have not been replaced which previously carried public highways on top of them. Rep. Ott sited at least two instances of this in Calhoun County and stated that under current law, dam owners have no timeline to replace the dam or to decide against replacing their dam. A SCDOT Highway Engineer added that this causes problems for DOT when they need to replace the washed out roadway in these cases.
The Committee will meet again at a to be determined date in October and adjourned subject to the Call of the Chair.