A Dam Dirty Business

You think you’ve got problems, Fairfield County? Well, you kind of do. Dirty pictures, property tax snafus, County Council members on the hot seat, water infrastructure struggles – sure. But at least when you go to bed at night you do so with the confidence that Lake Wateree or Lake Monticello will still be there when you wake up.

Not so for your Blythewood friends and neighbors in the Dawson’s Creek community.

Of course Dawson’s Pond, weighing in at a mere 6 acres, is no Wateree. But it is gone. Vanished in minutes last week, under cover of spectral darkness. Stolen? Not likely. Where would one fence such an item, and where would you hide it? The culprit appears not to be some subaquatic bandit, but instead a perfect storm of neglect, foul weather and perhaps even more.

Residents of the community are understandably upset. After all, the pond, built in 1921, has withstood worse weather and harder times than what the month of July threw at it; and yet, somehow, one overflow from the campus pond at Blythewood High School, just to their north, was apparently enough to trigger a total failure of the earthen dam. The drainage system below the dam should have been enough to handle the BHS spillage. But it did not. Why?

Beavers. Pesky little beavers.

These adorable little rodents, residents say, have consistently dammed up the drainage system. Clearing them out is the responsibility of the Roads and Drainage division of Richland County’s Public Works Department. In spite of months’ of calls for service by residents, the beavers remain. But are a few beavers alone enough to rupture a dam that has stood unchallenged for more than 90 years?

Maybe not. For there is also the mystery of who was out on the pond in recent weeks with a flotilla of heavy equipment. Residents report crews of shadowy men performing some sort of unidentified digging, dredging, poking and prodding in and around the dam just weeks before the breach. Add that to Richland County’s postmortem on the disaster that said the dam had been “dug out,” and you have the kind of ‘Unsolved Mystery’ for which only Robert Stack could provide the voiceover.

While Dawson’s Creek residents struggle for answers to what happened, they are also faced with what happens next. Forming a homeowners association so that neighbors may collectively pay for the maintenance and upkeep of any new dam is definitely a step in the right direction. But they are also going to need a new dam, and you can’t just pick one of those up at Wal-Mart. Fingering Richland County for a new dam, even if beaver neglect can be proven and even if they can be linked to the mystery work crew, might be a longshot. But it might be worth a try.