- Associated Press - Friday, December 11, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Two months after historic flooding led to multiple dam failures and widespread damage, a new measure proposed this week by South Carolina’s top House lawmaker would mean more state regulation and inspection of dams.

The proposal put forth by House Speaker Jay Lucas on Thursday, the last day lawmakers could pre-file bills before the session that starts next month, would put more smaller dams under state oversight as long as their failure would damage highways, railroads, homes, businesses, utility services or other dams downstream, according to The State newspaper (https://bit.ly/1lB4cFZ ).

Dam safety became a top issue after a historic October rain storm knocked out 32 state-regulated dams and dozens of others not under government oversight. Many homes were flooded after more than a foot of rain drenched Richland and Lexington counties.

Currently, more than 2,300 dams are regulated by the Department of Health and Environmental Control. Agency officials told the paper they didn’t know how many additional dams the agency would regulate.

DHEC says between 10,000 and 20,000 of the state’s dams are currently unregulated.

“Last October’s historic flood devastated our state in large part because local dams were not receiving the proper attention or maintenance necessary to keep families safe,” Caroline Delleney, spokeswoman for Lucas, R-Hartsville, said in a statement. “Speaker Lucas has been working with DHEC Secretary Catherine Heigel to ensure that the appropriate regulations are in place to prevent this type of destruction from occurring again.”

Under the bill, dam owners would be required to file annual registration forms, submit inspection and maintenance plans and test emergency plans. Owners would also be required to prove they can pay to remove the dam, either by bond or line or credit, if necessary to avoid property damage or danger to people close by.

More detailed and frequent inspections of hundreds of dams in highly populated areas would also be mandated.

DHEC officials told the paper they didn’t know how much money or staff the agency would need if the bill passes. The agency requested an additional $595,000 in state money for its dam safety program next year, doubling the size of its staff of seven.


Information from: The State, https://www.thestate.com

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