South Carolina homeowners living around lakes where dams failed in the historic flooding face uncertainty about when their properties will be waterfront again.
The State newspaper reported that rebuilding dams will cost six figures, and state regulators must approve the work. That means timetables are uncertain.
Karen Jones, who has lived on Lake Elizabeth in Richland County for 15 years, said she felt like she was on vacation everyday as residents fished and rode in paddle boats.
But the lake’s 115-year-old dam failed during the Oct. 4 rains, draining more than 8 million gallons of water. Jones’ home now looks over 32 acres of muddy ground.
“I don’t know when we’re going to get the lake back,” Jones said. “I’m sure property values will go down tremendously. People are worried about that.”
Home values are at stake when a lake is drained. Lakefront land could make up 30 percent to 40 percent of a home’s total value, said former Richland County assessor John Cloyd. Land typically accounts for 20 percent to 25 percent a home’s total value, he said.
As neighborhood associations work on plans to rebuild dams, homeowners can get short-term help by filing appeals with the county assessor to lower next year’s property taxes. Appeal requests are due by Jan. 15 in Richland County.
Last month’s storm, which dumped more than a foot of rain in one day, swelled creeks and knocked out 36 dams statewide, including 16 in Richland County.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has asked dam owners for assessments of the damage and action plans. The agency also pledged to work with dam owners to plan the repair and restoration.
Lakeside homeowners need to be patient, said Jay Graham, whose Columbia real estate firm has a listing on Upper Rocky Ford Lake.
“This is a four-act play and we’re in the first act,” he said.
Graham said he could understand the hesitation of potential homebuyers so soon after the flooding. But Graham said that less than two years after Hurricane Hugo struck in 1989, real estate started selling well along portions of the S.C. coast.
“It will come back,” he said.
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