Crews monitoring Bear Lake Dam due to overflow, drainage pipe issues

OCONEE COUNTY, SC (WSPA) - Emergency crews in Oconee County are trying to determine if a dam supporting Bear Lake is in danger because of all of the rain.

The overflow and drainage pipe, used to keep water from overflowing the dam, isn't flowing properly and water is rising in the lake. 

"Shortly after 3 pm this afternoon, Oconee County Emergency Services was notified by a property owner of a potential problem with the drainage system supporting Bear Lake in Northern Oconee County," Charles King, with Oconee County Emergency Services, said. "Team members from our Emergency Management division met with homeowners and maintenance personnel at the site and where they found that the overflow and drainage pipe used to keep water from overflowing the earthen dam was not flowing properly and water was rising in the lake."

"In addition to the rising waters, the discharge pipe failure had caused a small portion of the earth surrounding it to erode away. SCDHEC officials, who regulate these types of dams in SC, was requested to the scene. Their team conducted an assessment and determined that the problem with the drainage could potentially be occurring within the dam, not only at the outflow," King said in a news release.

King said right now a portable pump is moving water from the lake into a nearby creek, and will help relieve pressure on the dam.

According to the release, other plans are being made should the rainfall cause the water level to rise.

"Should the pump and existing drain not suffice, the local homeowners group has made arrangements for a drainage ditch to be dug to allow water to flow from the lake. With this amount of flow, water in Mud Creek and Cheohee Creek could rise out of their banks in the location area," King said. "As required by SCDHEC, a flood inundation study indicates that two roads would be endanger of flooding but no homes would be in harms way. SCDOT has placed signs on Cheohee Valley Road and Tamasee Knob Road warning of the potential for flooding."

DHEC and Oconee County Emergency Services will be monitoring the situation throughout the night.

King said roads in the Fiddler's Cove neighborhood, which are tight single-lane roads, as well as the section of road that crosses the dam, have been closed.

Those who live outside of the neighborhood are asked to avoid the area.

"While the drainage problem at Bear Lake is causing a problem locally for those living within the neighborhood, we want to reassure those in the area that the creek crossings on Cheohee Valley Road and Tamassee Knob Road are the only areas where high water would be expected should a large amount of water be released. No homes are within the inundation area," King said. 

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