Karen Dawkins has lived in a small house on the edge of M Avenue in Cayce for 30 years. She remembers her children jumping to play in the woods that stretch toward the Congaree River as a small stream was flowing behind the house.
Now, when she overlooks the backyard, it slopes towards the sloping wire mesh at the edge of the cliff. Below that, a small stream that once emerged from a drain under a nearby Axtel Drive has become a 20-foot-deep canyon, eroding her property little by little year after year.
It’s a very prominent part of the landscape, she and her neighbors gave it a less affectionate nickname.
“We call it Casey Canyon,” Dawkins said.
Once a small stream, the “Canyon” now forms very thin water droplets behind the house, suggesting that Dawkins can hide the 18-wheeled vehicle in it.
A stream that runs from a short dead end on M Avenue across the accelerator under the city’s baseball stadium and the American Legion post exits the pipe and is separate from the rotting forest below the entrance to the Three Rivers Greenway. Go through the pipe.
Tommy Spires, who lives next to Dawkins where the pipe enters the canyon, said he saw half of the land fall from the back of his property in the six years his family lived there. Utility workers have recently moved the pole five feet away from the yard, away from the sides of the ditch.
Spires believes the erosion has worsened because the angle of the pipe is pointing towards the back fence.
“It’s shooting water at my property,” he said. “When it rains heavily, the water blows up the sides like a spout directed at my house.”
Behind a pontoon boat parked in the garden, a vine-covered wire mesh fence hangs unstable on the surface of the water. There are only narrow streams on sunny days these days. At some point on the fence line, the ground gave way under a metal fence pole, leaving only concrete stubs on the base hanging in the air.
Spire’s says children aged 4 and 2 can’t be allowed to play in the backyard for fear of falling into the ditch.
On the other side of the street, Wayne Matthias’s backyard has a hut and an annex that houses his son’s tool repair business. Both sit along a line of fences adjacent to a ditch that he fears might threaten to swallow them. He doesn’t insure real estate, and he’s worried that like other residents he won’t be able to sell his home.
“If it was washed away, who would buy it?” Matthias asked. “You have to tell (to the buyer) what the situation is, otherwise you can go to jail.”
The city has studied what to do about this issue. Last year’s preliminary review by American Engineering Consultants determined that the existing waterways date back to the 1950s, but years of development in the Avenues area “increased rainwater flow.”
“The changes in rainwater runoff have been gradual over the years, but have resulted in natural drainage channels that exceed capacity,” the engineering company wrote in its assessment. “Because the drainage ditch of interest is significantly over capacity, extensive damage can be observed.”
The study did not suggest what could be done about the problem or how much money would be needed to solve the problem, but suggested that a more detailed engineering evaluation was needed.
Dawkins said he had contacted all local, state, and federal agencies that could handle the situation. She even found an assessment by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources in 1995 indicating the potential for a “substantial erosion problem.”
However, the DNR did not mention the amount, but also warned that potential modifications (installation of bulkheads and conversion of ditches to underground culverts) could be “very costly”.
The city is looking for funding for a comprehensive approach to all of the rainwater problems. Authorities estimate that it will cost a total of $ 23 million. The first phase is already under construction at Guignard Park along Knox Abbott Drive. When completed, the city wants Culvert to collect more water from Avenue.
Mayor Elise Partin says Casey is trying to raise money from many different sources to improve rainwater, but with funding from state and federal sources, or from grants when they become available. He said it was necessary.
“The city has the least ability to generate tax revenues than any of the entities involved, so we need other resources,” Partin said.
Dawkins discussed the 2020 home tax assessment and pointed out the continued erosion she said had killed about 10 feet of her property.
“It’s useless,” she now says about her backyard. “I couldn’t build a separate building or pool there.”
Dawkins is now retiring by sending his children to college, but her plans 30 years later on M Avenue are hampered by the difficulty of trying to sell a house that’s worn out year after year. ..
“I couldn’t buy another house,” she said. “I’m stuck.”