May 31 is National Dam Safety Awareness Day. This observance offers a chance to highlight DHEC’s Dam Safety Program, its growth, and a few of its members.
In October of 2015, 26 inches of rain fell in five days. The result was the failure of more than 50 regulated dams in 11 counties. This was taxing on the small staff of the Dam Safety Team.
Through the diligent support of committed DHEC volunteers from other program areas within the Bureau of Water, Air Quality, Land & Waste Management, and Environmental Health Services, along with a team of engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a response was mounted that allowed for the urgent response to dams at risk of imminent failure, issuance of 75 Emergency Orders, and assessment of more than 600 dams across the state.
The Dam Safety team now features 16 staff members working in seven offices across the state, which allows the program to not only focus on routine tasks such as inspections, permitting, and responding to dam safety incidents, but to also develop tools to help dam owners and first responders to include:
- Emergency Action Plans for High & Significant Hazard Dams
- Development of Dam Failure Inundation Maps that are publicly available
- Participation in statewide and local exercises that include dam failure components
- Management of funds from FEMA’s High Hazard Potential Dam Grant program
Each of the members of the Dam Safety Program brings a unique background and set of skills to the job, and we wanted to spotlight three of them in recognition of National Dam Safety Awareness Day.
Jared Woodard, Regional Dam Safety Engineer Florence
Jared Woodard was born and raised in Columbia. He graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2019 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering. Jared is an Eagle Scout and said he enjoys the occasional game of quidditch.
“I have always enjoyed the outdoors and the conservation of our ecosystem due to my involvement in Scouting,” he said. “I enjoy working in the Dam Safety Program due to the ability to be outdoors meeting new people.”
Jared also said he has enjoyed learning about dams, inundation modeling, and all the program areas of DHEC.
Dani Felkel, Regional Dam Safety Engineer Orangeburg
Dani Hallman Felkel is a 2014 graduate of the University of South Carolina’s Mechanical Engineering Program. She began her career with DHEC’s Orangeburg Environmental Affairs office in January of 2015 as the first of six full-time regional dam safety engineers, as well as spending five years as a member of the Orangeburg office’s Environmental Response Team.
In her time with the Dam Safety Program, Dani has had the opportunity to meet and work with many dam owners across the state.
“My favorite thing about working with the program is the time spent out of the office visiting new places and the opportunity to meet and get to know the dam owners in my area,” she said.
Sam Johnson, Environmental Health Manager, Bureau of Water Dam Safety
Sam Johnson is from Lexington and a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a BS in Biology and an MS in Earth and Environmental Resource Management.
“I enjoy working in the Dam Safety Program because of the flexibility to work on a variety of projects in both the office and the field,” he said. “I’ve also enjoyed learning to use new bathymetric surveying and drone technologies that will help improve our understanding of our dams and the risks they pose.”