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Lake Robinson, Sonoco dams releasing water

September 18, 2018
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Water released from Lake Robinson travels under the Old Camden Road bridge as it travels down Black Creek toward Prestwood Lake in Hartsville. Rain from Hurricane Florence and its aftermath are collecting in Lake Robinson almost as fast as the water can be released at a rate of 2,000 cubic feet per second.

HARTSVILLE, S.C. – While post-Hurricane Florence cleanup began Monday morning, those who keep a watchful eye on the river and lake systems in the Pee Dee are still hard at work.

The Lake Robinson dam and the Sonoco dam are releasing water into the Black Creek system, which already is stressed downstream with storm runoff.

Additionally, the Boys Scout camp in Society Hill also has taken a hit. Camp Coker experienced water going over the top of its dam.

In a joint release Sunday by Duke Energy and Sonoco, water releases designed to release water downstream at approximately the same rate as the inflow were being coordinated between the two.

“Sonoco is coordinating with Duke Energy’s Lake Robinson Dam to manage the unprecedented amount of rainfall experienced over the past several days due to Hurricane Florence as it moves through Black Creek,” the release said. “Sonoco is also coordinating with Darlington County and Hartsville officials to provide the public updated information. Sonoco’s Hartsville dam is located at its manufacturing complex in Hartsville and the complex is being shut down as it expects to experience flooding over the next 24 hours.”

According to Roger Schrum, the corporate vice president in charge of investor relations and corporate affairs for Sonoco, the two release points are being closely monitored.

Schrum said Sonoco is releasing 3,500 cubic-feet per second (CFS), and in doing that, Sonoco shut down the milling operation because of the increase in water.

Patrick Flynn, a Duke Energy public information officer, explained the situation from the Lake Robinson perspective.

“Due to significant rainfall from Hurricane Florence, Duke Energy is releasing water from Lake Robinson,” he said. “Prior to the release beginning, Duke Energy notified area officials. While Lake Robinson water levels were low, they have increased significantly with the rainfall over the past days.”

Lake Robinson has been releasing water at approximately 2,000 cubic feet per second to keep pressure levels from stressing the dam. However, Lake Robinson is receiving storm runoff from approximately 170 square miles of watershed that stretches up into North Carolina. The lake encompasses 2,250 square acres and straddles the Darlington and Chesterfield County lines.

Both dams are earthen in construction and received upgrades after Hurricane Matthew two years ago.

Camp Coker, a Boy Scout camp in Society Hill, experienced water going over the top of its dam very early Sunday morning, according to Boy Scout officials in the council office in Florence.

According to South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, water going over the top of a dam could lead to the dam’s failure.

The dam had taken on six feet of water in a 12-hour period.

According to Michael Hesbach, scout executive and chief executive officer for the Pee Dee Area Council/ Boy Scouts of America, specific procedures were followed to contain the situation.

“Our team at Camp Coker has been closely monitoring the rainfall levels in relation to the dam since Hurricane Florence’s arrival,” he said. “While we are still in the process of gathering information, our thoughts are with all those impacted by this flooding.”

Hesbach said there were no campers present on the property and that local residents living in the affected area were asked to evacuate the area.

“We would like to thank the emergency responders who are assisting those living in the affected areas,” he said.

Camp Coker Road is closed between Funderbunk Road and Moree Road.

The tributary below the dam flows into the Great Pee Dee River basin.

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