SC DOT: private owners, HOAs must fix dams before we can repair roads

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


Back in October, record-breaking rainfall caused dozens of dams to fail in South Carolina, resulting in widespread flooding and millions of dollars worth of damages. The Governor declared the incident a disaster, and FEMA has been involved in clean up efforts.

However, several months later, many dams have not been repaired, and neither have the roads that were washed out with the flood. That includes state roads as well as private roads.

In the video linked below, take a look at the condition of some state roads, which remain in shambles, and are causing drivers to take round about detours. WLTX reporter Charles Ringwalt interviews SC Department of Transportation to find out why state roads have not been repaired yet.

In South Carolina, as in many other states, dams are usually privately owned. And in many cases, that private owner is a homeowners’ association (HOA). DOT cannot fix roads until the owner fixes the dam, and Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) inspects the rebuilt dam and issues a safety certification.


Residents Upset Flood-Damaged Road Hasn’t Been Fixed


In HOAs, the main purpose for building a dam was to create a private pond or lake as the centerpiece of the community. Other dams were built to control storm water flow and prevent flooding. Either way, when owners bought into the HOA, it is doubtful that it was disclosed to them that they would become a partial owner of a dam and perpetually responsible for all of its future maintenance.

Dam repair and replacement is very costly – anywhere from ten thousand to millions of dollars, depending on the size of the dam. FEMA won’t help, and many Associations cannot afford to make the repairs. When homeowner members of the HOA cannot afford to fix their dam, then their only viable option is to simply abandon it.

But that means homeowners forever lose their lake views and recreational value. Yet another example of how HOAs do not always protect and enhance property values.

In the meantime, even if you have never owned property in a lake community with its own private HOA, you are  directly or indirectly affected by costly flood and publicly owned road damage as a result of poorly maintained, privately owned dams.

And that begs the question: why aren’t dams publicly owned, given that their failure can have significant financial impact on taxpayers, and create a threat to public safety?

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