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Small dam scheduled to be removed from Columbia-area creek

May 15, 2019

Through a successful partnership, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), American Rivers, Congaree Riverkeeper and the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) are happy to announce plans to remove a small dam from one Columbia-area creek starting May 21.

Removal of the small sheet pile dam in the Congaree Creek would result in restoring the natural flow of the stream, improving habitat for aquatic species, and removing a safety hazard for boaters.

"We are thrilled to be able to work with all the partners on this important project" said Congaree Riverkeeper Bill Stangler. "Congaree Creek is a beautiful blackwater creek that flows through the heart of Cayce, and includes a canoe trail that meanders through the Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve, just minutes from downtown Columbia. By removing this boating hazard and improving the health of the creek we hope more people will be able to explore and enjoy this hidden gem."

American Rivers and Congaree Riverkeeper approached SCDNR in 2017 for support and assistance in the removal of the Congaree Creek dam.

“It’s always exciting to work with partners to make these things happen. Removal of this relict sheet pile dam will provide for unimpeded aquatic movement and safe recreational access for paddlers along Congaree Creek. We hope it provides a great opportunity for folks to access the Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve canoe trail as well,” said SCDNR’s Office of Environmental Programs Director Lorianne Riggin.

Gerrit Jobsis and Erin McCombs with American Rivers were the force that brought this easy aquatic restoration project to the forefront with support from Congaree Riverkeeper and the City of Cayce, who owns the land. SCDNR provided permitting assistance, and the USFWS Southeast Region Aquatic Habitat Restoration Team will be removing the dam.

“The City of Cayce takes pride in its abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities. Removal of the relic dam will provide yet another opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy Congaree Creek,” added Cayce Mayor Elise Partin.

Having another dam removed in South Carolina will go toward the goal of improving natural resources and human interactions in this area.

“Nationwide, more than 1,500 dams have been removed to restore river health and improve recreation and public safety. In South Carolina, only 11 dams have been removed across the state and the removal of the Congaree Creek dam is a step in the right direction to remove more and improve aquatic organism passage and safe recreational access” said Gerrit Jobsis, Senior Director at American Rivers. “The need for this is more evident than ever with South Carolina experiencing an unprecedented number of 80 dam failures since 2015 as a result of hurricanes and flooding. Reconnection of riverine systems and wetlands can help prevent the damage to homes, roads and the loss of lives.”

The USFWS helped provide sediment testing to ensure that any and all sediments that may be held back by the dam are clean and insured that removing the dam wouldn’t send any pollutants downstream.

“Removal of the Congaree Creek Sheet Pile Dam is a critical step towards connecting and restoring the natural flow, beauty, and aquatic biodiversity,” said Tom McCoy, Field Supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s South Carolina Ecological Services Field Office. “This project is in line with the Department of Interior’s Secretarial priorities to foster partnerships to achieve balanced stewardship and use of our public lands and promotes the conservation of our land and water resources. Removal of the dam will allow migratory fishes, mollusks, and several species of greatest conservation needs under the State Wildlife Action Plan to travel further upstream.”

The dam removal off Highway 21 Bypass near Dixiana Road is planned to start on May 21. Due to the limited amount of parking space and safety hazards at the dam removal site, SCDNR will provide photos and video to media.