Duke Energy explains how North Carolina dams, watershed have contributed to Horry County flooding

Grand Strand

CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) – Duke Energy spoke to Horry County Council on Tuesday night about how issues with North Carolina dams could be contributing to flooding in coastal communities.

Whenever it rains in a good portion of the Carolinas, all that rain goes to the ocean at Winyah Bay in Georgetown, but when there’s too much water, neighborhoods along several Horry County waterways can flood.

“The water in the Waccamaw (River) can’t get out and it starts building up because of the flow on the Pee Dee and the Little Pee Dee (rivers),” said Gary Loftus, a council member representing Surfside Beach.

At Tuesday’s county council meeting, an engineer from Duke Energy discussed how dams in its Yadkin-Pee Dee Hydroelectric Project handled two rain storms in February and May, which caused flooding in places like Socastee.

“We have two crises in Horry County right now,” said Tyler Servant, a council member representing Garden City. “We have a COVID crisis, but we also have a flooding crisis.”

Jeff Lineberger, who’s the director of water strategy and hydro licensing for Duke Energy, says the majority of rain in both storms fell south of the Blewett Falls Lake reservoir on the Pee Dee River near Rockingham, North Carolina.

“Those reservoirs that are up there really can’t manage anything that doesn’t fall in their drainage area,” Lineberger said.

Lineberger also says since Hurricane Florence, the Blewett Falls dam’s powerhouse has not been able to control water flowing down the Pee Dee Basin to the Atlantic Ocean.

“After we have some units back, we’ll have a little bit better ability to shave some of that peak at Blewett Falls, but it’s not going to be a gamechanger,” he said.

As for what can be done in Horry County, council talked about looking into the long-discussed diversion canal off the Waccamaw River to the Intracoastal Waterway at Little River.

“It’s a shame that our neighbors to the north have unbelievable amounts of water coming over their dams and they need to do more about being able to control that water,” Servant said.

Duke Energy says it notifies Horry County when the Blewett Falls Lake is one foot above its full pond elevation. Lineberger says after millions of dollars in repairs, the powerhouse at Blewett Falls should be running again by the end of August.

The estimated $118 million Waccamaw River diversion canal most recently stalled in 2009 due to environmental concerns.

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