Richland County is joining residents from one local neighborhood in celebrating the successful repair of a dam destroyed during the historic October flood.
Beaver Lake Dam in northwest Richland County sustained serious damage, prompting residents to take action to repair it. With help from Richland County Public Works, the dam is now fully restored.
“The leadership displayed by these residents to step up to the challenge and overcome it is exemplary,” said Richland County Councilwoman Julie-Ann Dixon of District 9, which includes Beaver Lake and surrounding neighborhoods. “Without Beaver Lake residents taking the initiative to repair their dam and the County providing the funds and resources for resurfacing the road, this restoration couldn’t have been successful. It’s been a real collaboration between residents and County staff.”
After heavy rains fell on Oct. 4, Richland County staff and local, state and national agencies worked around the clock to reinforce dams throughout the County, trying to prevent failures. At Beaver Lake Dam, workers – including several neighborhood volunteers – sought to reduce the amount of water pressuring the dam and to stabilize the structure itself. But the earthen dam continued to deteriorate and eventually breached in several places, also damaging portions of Beaver Dam Road that crosses the top of it.
When flood recovery efforts began, residents and local agencies realized that repairing Beaver Lake Dam could be a complicated process since the structure itself is privately owned but is regulated by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and Beaver Dam Road on top of it is County-maintained infrastructure.
“Although the County isn’t permitted to use its resources to work on privately owned property, that doesn’t mean we’re not here to help residents get back on their feet,” said Richland County Council Vice Chair Greg Pearce of District 6. His district includes several impaired dams in similar situations: they are privately owned, monitored by the state and have a County roadway across them.
In order to restore their dam, the Beaver Dam Lake homeowners association secured a Small Business Administration loan, and with approval from DHEC and commitment from affected homeowners to repay the loan through taxes, repair work began.
Richland County Public Works Department staff worked with the association’s hired engineer and helped review designs for land disturbance, sediment erosion control and other standards required to meet DHEC’s dam safety standards.
On Aug. 16, DHEC presented the homeowners association with an official Certificate of Completion and Operation, meaning the dam had passed final inspection.
Affected Beaver Lake homeowners voted in referendum Aug. 23 to establish a special tax district to repay the loan and on Aug. 29, Richland County Public Works completed the first phase of asphalt paving repair for the damaged sections of Beaver Dam Road, which made the road drivable and open to residents. The second and final phase of asphalt repairing – which addresses the cosmetic, nonstructural components of the road – is set to begin Sept. 6.
“We are thankful that our association was able to complete the repairs to the dam this summer, which could only have happened through the leadership of individual residents,” said Beaver Lake representative Jim Lehman. “We also appreciate the support of the County in repairing Beaver Dam Road so quickly.”
Homeowners in two other lakefront communities devastated by the flood – Cary Lake and Lower Rockyford Lake – also voted Aug. 23 in favor of the special tax district to finance repairs to their privately owned dams.