S.C. National Guard assists DOT in building AquaDam to keep major highway open

Updated Oct 5, 2018
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Scotty Hill (left) and Staff Sgt. Antonio Epps, with the South Carolina Army National Guard’s Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment unload hoses to set up an AquaDam on Highway 17 in Georgetown County, S.C., September 25, 2018. The soldiers are assisting South Carolina Department of Transportation with set up of the AquaDam to keep roads open during the rising waters in the area after Hurricane Florence. About South Carolina National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are currently on duty supporting local authorities in flooded areas. Photo: Capt. Stephen D. Hudson.U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Scotty Hill (left) and Staff Sgt. Antonio Epps, with the South Carolina Army National Guard’s Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment unload hoses to set up an AquaDam on Highway 17 in Georgetown County, S.C., September 25, 2018. The soldiers are assisting South Carolina Department of Transportation with set up of the AquaDam to keep roads open during the rising waters in the area after Hurricane Florence. About South Carolina National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are currently on duty supporting local authorities in flooded areas. Photo: Capt. Stephen D. Hudson.

The South Carolina Army National Guard is helping the state’s Department of Transportation to build an AquaDam to keep a highway open during flooding caused by Hurricane Florence.

The dam is designed to keep Highway 17 – a major conduit along South Carolina’s coastline – open from Georgetown to Myrtle Beach.

Leland Colvin, deputy secretary of engineering with South Carolina DOT, says that he believes this is the first time an AquaDam has been used to keep a roadway open. Construction of the AquaDam is new to the engineers of the state’s transportation departments and the National Guard.

Using the AquaDam will raise the elevation of the road by four feet. If this plan fails, the National Guard has the 125th Multi-Role Bridge Company staged further downstream to employ its ribbon bridge to ferry relief supplies and response vehicles to Georgetown, the Army says in a public affairs article.

As rivers in parts of the state crested at record levels, the water flows directly to the ocean through Winyah Bay and the Sampit River. To keep the roads clear, the Department of Transportation has enlisted the help of soldiers from both the Infantry and Air Defense Artillery.

The Guard’s engineers had already assisted the South Carolina DOT with building another type of barrier – Hesco barriers – on Highway 501 between Myrtle Beach and Conway.

About 2,000 South Carolina National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are on duty supporting local authorities in response and recovery operations to the ongoing flooding that followed Hurricane Florence’s landfall.

National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from Pennsylvania, Alaska, Tennessee, Maryland, Wisconsin, New York, Arkansas, Virginia, Georgia and Mississippi are also supporting the South Carolina National Guard’s response efforts.

Colvin says the Guard soldiers have helped with everything from setting up the AquaDam to running forklifts and transportation needs. “We could not do it without them,” he says.

The Public Affairs report also notes that Staff Sgt. Scotty Hill, a squad leader with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment, is one of the dozens of soldiers working on this stretch of highway. Hill has been activated for previous state active duty including Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Hurricane Irma in 2017 and the historic floods in 2015.

“The community itself has been overwhelming,” Hill says. “It’s far greater than we could ever expect.”

Before the AquaDam mission, the company was in Conway and Moncks Corner, helping local law enforcement with traffic control.