Sunday, May 31st is National #DamSafety Awareness Day. This day serves to encourage responsibility for dam safety, while promoting the benefits dams offer to communities. DHEC’s Dam Safety Program and their dedicated work on tools and initiatives help dam owners and the state’s dam safety program handle significant rainfall and other events that have the potential to impact dams.
DHEC’s Dam Safety Program has undergone a rebirth since October 2015’s historic floods. Through the investments from the State Legislature, the Dam Safety Program has been able to add staff and improve its capabilities, including expanding education and outreach for dam owners. The Dam Safety team includes six Regional Dam Safety Engineers, as well as staff and engineers in the Bureau of Water, to work on permitting, inspections and increase interactions with dam owners.
Working with Dam Owners
Working with dam owners is one of the most important aspects of dam safety. When an issue arises at a dam that could lead to failure, one of the most critical tasks for the owner is to lower the water level. One tool commonly used to lower water levels is a temporary siphon. The size and number of siphons required depends on the size of the reservoir and target water level. DHEC Dam Safety has developed a video to help dam owners through installation.
DHEC Dam Safety has continued (relatively) routine operations while teleworking. Each Thursday morning, program staff from across the state connect together on Teams to discuss the development of webinars, tackling a challenging aspect of a permit review, or prepping for hurricane season.
As Hurricane Season approaches, summer thunderstorms in South Carolina can sit over a drainage basin for an extended period of time and drop 6-8” of rain in a matter of hours. When such an event is forecast or has occurred, dam owners should:
- Evaluate the water level in the pond/lake and determine if water levels can be safely lowered to make room for incoming flows.
- Coordinate with dam owners and/ or property owners downstream.
- Routinely clear debris from spillways.
- Review your Emergency Action Plan.
- Keep alert. As the storm passes, watch for rising waters.
- Report any immediate safety concerns to the DHEC Dam Safety Program’s 24/7 line at 803-898- 1939.
For over 10 years, DHEC’s Dam Safety Program has brought on interns to assist with development of Emergency Action Plans, data management, and mapping. Interns have been hired full-time to start careers with the Dam Safety Program here at DHEC and other have gone to work in the private sector at companies such as Trane and Dominion Energy.
DHEC Dam Safety has partnered with FEMA and Argonne National Laboratory on a series of webinars for dam owners, with a focus on the unique challenges faced by those dams owned by HOAs. Two webinars have been completed and the recordings posted to DHEC’s YouTube page. Additional presentations are scheduled for June 2 and July 7.