A Non-Freakish Dam-Ridden Flood. Part III

Freak, but not freakish. This storm was a freak of nature, but the flooding was not fantastically freakish.

With that said, there were real damages, heartache, and plenty of lost sleep. For my last post about this South Carolina flood in October, I wanted to collect and summarize some of the different impacts I’ve seen reported in one place, so I put together this graphic below.

SC 2015 Flood Infographic

The loss of dams stands out for me. I don’t advocate too much here, but the one thing I have written about in the past was the safety of dams. Ok, I know.  They were not my best posts, but I tried.

1.  Hidden World of Dam Safety and EAPs. (2008)
2.  Dam Failures are Spectacular Flukes? (2010)
3.  Dam Safety 35 years later (2013)

As you can imagine there has been more attention and questions directed toward dam safety. Did South Carolina have enough inspectors and program budget to address safety issues ahead of time? In 2014, the Association of Dam Safety Officials published Dam safety data for every state. South Carolina had a budget of $260,000 and reported 6.6 full-time equivalent staff to cover 2,340 dams. By my calculations, we ranked 39th overall which is near the bottom of the pack. At least we were better than Oklahoma. They had reported budget of $122,000 and 3.3 full-time equivalent staff to cover 4,000 dams.

This graphic below shows my state rankings based on the number of dams and the full-time state regulatory staff. I am not sure if this interactive graphic will show up for folks on my email list, but here it is. You may have to visit watercrunch to see it. Green is better and red is not as good.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is requesting an extra $595,000 for its dam safety program which is more than double its current budget. They want to hire six engineers, and a manager for inspection and compliance efforts. Even if this inflow of resources survives the legislature battles for money, we would move to 29th overall. This is better, but you know what?

The Government can only do so much.

How many inspectors is the right number?

I don’t know. Of the 15 state-regulated dams that failed in Richland County in South Carolina, eight had received satisfactory inspections within the past four years, according to The State.

Floods are not failures, floods are a test. They remind us that not everything can be scheduled, can be put off, or forgotten. They remind us how important our neighbors really are. Like any test in life, the only failure would be if did not learn from the failures. We need to keep sharing stories from the flood like this one about saving Beaver Dam lake in Columbia.

One SC Fund #scstrong