S.C. House panel recommends state consider dam safety improvement legislation

Hurricane Matthew South Carolina

A South Carolina House panel has recommended regulators improve the state’s dam safety laws after consecutive autumns in which the poor condition of the state’s dam infrastructure was brought to light.

A thousand-year rainfall event last October caused more than 50 dams to fail and caused significant property damage within South Carolina, after which an analysis of the state’s dam safety program revealed its network of 2,400 regulated dams was not inspected frequently — or at all.

South Carolina’s dams were then called into sharp attention during last month’s Hurricane Matthew, which caused the state’s Emergency Management Division to warn 136 dam owners to lower reservoir levels amidst reports of 25 failures.

The proposal approved by the House panel last week would require all owners to register their dams with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, while also giving state regulators more resources for oversight.

Per the panel’s recommendation, a House bill is now expected to be filed in December, though particulars of the potential legislation are still being discussed.

Chief amongst them are how the state might differentiate between small and large projects, and what — if any — fees owners might have to pay for each dam. The frequency of mandatory inspections is also being considered, though the state already inspects “high hazard” dams every two years and “significant hazard” dams every three years.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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