No Funding Available for Multi-Thousand Dollar Project
The plight of Beaverdam Structures 1&2 was first brought to public attention at Edgefield County Council’s last monthly meeting. It was there that Edgar Lamb, President of the Beaverdam Water Shed Commissioners, informed Council the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) had issued repair orders for the structures. Lamb went on to tell Council that the repairs to each structure would cost about $200,000 and appealed to Council to begin considering now if they could increase the annual $1000 they contribute to the facility. Council took Lamb’s information as such, and no action was taken. However, since DHECs repair order implies an expected action on behalf of the dams at some point, The Advertiser decided to take a closer look at the issues facing the structures at Beaverdam.
Suzy Spurgeon, Emergency Management Director, who spoke to The Advertiser at length regarding Beaverdam, explained that there are actually two dams at the heart of this issue, and, as The Advertiser found out while researching them, they are known by several different names. While their official names, Beaverdam Structures 1&2, were cited in the presentation to Council, historically, the dams have also been called the H.H. Odell Dam to honor local conservationist Hank Odell. However, as Lamb explained when he spoke to The Advertiser, they are referred to by the commissioners entrusted with their care by none of these names. The commissioners, of which there are five, refer to the dams as Allen’s Pond and the Rabbit Trail Structure.
As confusing as their names may be, their purpose is not. The dams were built in the 1960s to help protect the town of Edgefield from flooding. Their area of protection follows Beaverdam Creek through downtown Edgefield and includes Slade Lake as well since the creek also drains into that body of water. The dams’ abilities to protect these areas, however, are now in question. As Spurgeon explained, the gate mechanism on each dam is currently inoperable leaving no way to control the flow of water through the dams. Hence, the repair order from DHEC, who, after the historic floods of 2015, decided to inspect all the dams on their books. DHEC has given no time table on this repair order, however, since at this time, they consider it to be non-emergency. However, as Spurgeon shared, the threat of the gates’ possible failures is real but added that those possible failures hinge on “a lot of contributing factors.”
Spurgeon stated that at this time, the Beaverdam structures are not looking at imminent failure. However, she also shared that another historic rainfall could “very possibly” see the dams fail, and, if they fail, Spurgeon said they could “very possibly” take out Slade Lake as well. While a flood of this size is unlikely to affect the business district of Edgefield, it could cause the areas along the creek to flood and, according to Spurgeon, could flood the homes in the old Mill District. This type of flooding would threaten life and property in those areas. Asked the odds of this occurring, Spurgeon said they are unknown since how much water flow the dams can withstand at this point is not known. She said that if the dams will breach and how much damage their breaches could cause is up in the air. Lamb told The Advertiser, “We [the commissioners] feel they’re safe.” He went on to say, “They need maintenance, yes,” but added that if he and his fellow commissioners felt the dams posed any imminent danger, they “would be screaming bloody murder.” Lamb assured, “We’re gonna’ keep an eye on them.”
Keeping an eye on them is about all the commissioners can do at this time since the dams have no income source with which to fund their repairs, although this was not always the case. As Lamb explained, when they were first built, a special tax district was created to fund the dams’ maintenance. However, at some point (the exact date of which is “buried in archives” according to Bill Gilchrist with the Tax Office) and for reasons unknown, the tax district was dissolved, thus, leaving the dams and their maintenance with no source of income. This reality did not pose a problem, though, at first. With the town of Edgefield contributing about $500 annually and the County the aforementioned $1,000 a year, the commissioners were able to pay expenses, which includes insurance and routine maintenance on the structures, from those funds. The problem arose when the dams’ liability insurances recently increased from $1,000 a year to $20,000. As a result, commissioners have been dipping into the little savings accumulated over the years to pay for this. As Lamb explained, due to the lack of funds and no income source, the commissioners are now “falling behind with just normal maintenance.”
With no way to pay for the routine maintenance, The Advertiser questioned how the commissioners expect to pay for the repairs issued by DHEC which total around $400,000. To this, Spurgeon and Lamb said that the commissioners are currently exploring options. One of those options include grants. However, as Spurgeon explained, since the repairs are considered a maintenance issue, they are not considered high priority and, as such, their grant qualifications are limited. Another option, which Lamb is also already pursuing, is soliciting increased funding from the town of Edgefield and County Council. However, with both of these entities already finished or nearly so with their budgets for the coming fiscal year, an increase at this point is unlikely. A third option is re-implementing the special tax district or imposing fees for those living along Beaverdam Creek. However, both Spurgeon and Lamb assured that they are working hard to avoid this option. Spurgeon and Lamb both stated that they are searching diligently for any funding that may be available, with Lamb saying, “We’re open to any suggestions.”
The Advertiser contacted DHEC last week for comment on the repairs at the Beaverdam Structures 1&2, specifically questioning for how long these gates will be allowed to remain inoperable and, if and when DHEC instituted a timetable on those repairs, what recourse would there be if funding for said repairs was still unavailable. However, while The Advertiser was told by a media relations spokesperson for the department that attempts were being made to find the answers to those questions, no reply was received by press time.
As The Advertiser continues to wait on a response from DHEC, the Beaverdam commissioners continue to wait for DHEC to “pull the trigger”, as Lamb put it, on the repair order. He called the situation a “timing issue that may be dictated by DHEC more than anything else.”