GEORGETOWN, SC (WCSC) - Crews are working on breaking down the 9000 foot aqua dams lining the right sides of Highway 17 between Georgetown and Pawley’s Island since Wednesday, but they are only about halfway done as of Saturday afternoon.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation says the water-filled barriers can be installed much faster than they can be broken down, so the lane will be closed for several more days.
The aqua dams went in place on September 23 in an attempt by Georgetown County to keep the roads as safe and dry as possible as the expected historic flooding came closer. Some commuters said they liked the idea of the dams at first, but now that it’s been two weeks full of traffic from the barriers, they want them down.
“A drive that normally takes ten minutes now takes me an hour and a half depending what time of day it is and that’s just not fair since the water threat is over now,” said Virginia Ogburn-Matthews, a Georgetown commuter.
A SCDOT engineer for the aqua dam project says it will be several more days before both east and west bound lanes are fully open and operating again.
“We are hoping to be done the middle of the week with everything, get everything out of the road and cleanup,” says Jayson Cantey, a SCDOT engineer.
Several people that regularly drive in that area all had the same question of “Why did it take so long to begin breaking them down?” SCDOT said they needed to make sure the threat was completely gone.
“As soon as we were sure the water wouldn’t rise we began taking them down,” says Cantey.
The process of taking down the barriers is extensive due to having to let the bags drain completely before they can be rolled up. If they aren’t completely drained, they are too heavy to roll up and pack away.
“When we installed them you pump water in, when you let it out the water has to drain and that takes a while,” says Cantey.
Cantey says the crews putting in long and difficult hours are doing the best they can to get everything picked up as quickly as possible.
“Just bear with us, give us some time, we are trying to go as fast as we can, it’s just a slow process,” says Cantey.