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SCDNR to move with partners toward restoring Lake Paul Wallace

May 07, 2024

BENNETTSVILLE--The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) is working with state and local partners to plan the next steps in repairing a breach of Lake Paul Wallace dam in Marlboro County.

SCDNR was alerted to a breach of the approximately 18-foot dam at about 5:30 p.m. Monday. SCDNR law enforcement officers, along with Bennettsville Fire Department, Bennettsville Police, Marlboro County EMS, Marlboro County Fire Service and numerous nearby fire departments worked to secure the area, and power was temporarily shut off to nearby homes downstream of the dam as a precaution.

While a damage assessment by county emergency officials of the nearby area continues, no residents are believed to have been displaced.

Sully Blair, chairman of the Lake Paul Wallace Authority, which works in partnership with SCDNR to oversee the lake, noticed the water level at the spillway was lower than normal, especially with the amount of rain the area has received over the past several days. After further inspection, Blair realized a portion of the embankment dam next to the spillway was failing and alerted emergency personnel. Some of the first officials on scene were able to open the main valve to release water in a pipe through the spillway to help relieve pressure on the compromised portion and reduce the likelihood of a complete collapse.

Officials noted the swift response from those involved helped to contain the breach.

"I’m grateful that the incident was controlled, and that there was no significant flooding, no injuries, no property damage to date—we’re very thankful for that," Blair said. "This is a community and state treasure, and it’s critically important that we work together to identify the funds to build it back."

Lake Paul Wallace is more than 300 acres, including a larger lake managed for fish habitat and fishing and an adjacent canal that serves boaters and other recreation. The lake includes picnic areas, a small beach and walking trail.

The Lake Paul A. Wallace Authority was created in 2012 by Act 229 of the South Carolina General Assembly to manage, maintain and operate the lake. SCDNR owns the property and maintains the fisheries habitat of the lake as part of its State Lakes Program.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC), which regulates state dams, last completed a routine inspection of the dam April 30. While that inspection report hasn’t been finalized yet, there was no evidence during the inspection that indicated any type of imminent risk of breach or failure.

SCDNR will work with SCDHEC, the S.C. Department of Transportation, which is responsible for the road affected by the breach, and other state and local officials to plan for stabilizing the dam and roadway on Country Club Drive and ultimately rebuilding.

"We are sorry for those who have been negatively affected in any way by this unfortunate event," said SCDNR Director Robert Boyles. "This is an opportunity to restore and enhance Lake Paul Wallace for the citizens of Bennettsville, Marlboro County, northeast South Carolina and all of South Carolina."