Lexington Looks to Replace Dams Broken by Flood

Oct 27, 2016

Broken dams across the state made last year’s historic floods in South Carolina even worse.  In Lexington, three dams burst, washing debris through the city and flooding U.S. Highway 1.  The city is now seeking to reconstruct the old dams to be more resilient. Tut Underwood has the story.

Mill Pond Dam
Credit Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

When the rain started falling in Lexington last year, Twelve mile creek quickly filled up -- the stream runs through Lexington. It caused nine homes to be destroyed as well as a business, though they have "actually moved to a different location and opened back up. The homes that were destroyed, the people that were in those homes were placed in new homes," says Mayor Steve Macdougall.

He adds the damage could have been worse. Several months before the historic rainfall, the Department of Health and Environmental Control examined the dams and made an important recommendation. Macdougall says, "they found that Old Mill dam had a deficiency, so they ordered Old Mill to be drained. I think it was 40 to 60% drained." Though it did eventually fail, the dam was able to absorb more water and hold out for longer.

Since October, the city has gotten a grant from the US Department of Agriculture to help rebuild one of their dams. Specifically, Lexington got the funding for a diversion dike. Special Projects Manager Wesley Crosby says, "it will act as two different structures. It'll assist in getting the water away so they can do construction, and then get the water back in its proper channel."

A Broken Mill Pond Dam
Credit Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

In the interim, Lexington is concerned about what impact other rainfall events might have. Heavy rains could mean more flooding. When a recent tropical storm was threatening the area, Mayor Macdougall says "all our departments were on high alert. We were ready to barricade roads. The police were constantly monitoring all three of our ponds and dams and all roads in between those three. The fear is always there that that would happen again. It could easily happen."

The city also seeks relief funding from FEMA, though it doesen't have any word yet. If it doesn't come through, city officials will consider other options to rebuild the dam.