What began as a conversation between a Union businessman and the minister of a Spartanburg church has become an effort to revive the Patriots Lake project in Union County.
The 6,500-acre lake, which would be formed by damming Tyger River and Fairforest Creek in the Sumter National Forest, has been touted by proponents as a needed source of water for the county and the Upstate, a spur to economic development and a recreational boon for the county, and possible source of hydroelectric power.
The proposed lake was the subject of much debate in 2008 when it drew the opposition of a coalition of environmental groups who claimed the lake was unnecessary and called for the area to be developed for “green tourism.”
The debate also drew in members of the South Carolina Congressional Delegation with then-Fourth District Rep. Bob Inglis opposing the lake while Sen. Jim DeMint said it should be pursued.
A study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found that while the lake was “technically possible” it was not economically justified. The study projected that while the lake would generate some benefits, these would not be enough to justify the estimated $187 million it would cost to build it. The study also concluded that the Upstate has sufficient supplies of water to meet its needs until 2030.
Proponents, however, questioned the report’s conclusions, pointing out that it did not take into consideration the combination of projected population growth in the Upstate and the persistent problem of drought that has plagued the region. They also questioned the report’s conclusions about the economic benefits of the lake and the projected cost of its construction, pointing out that consultants who analyzed the project had concluded it could be built for much less.
Since then, there’s not been much activity regarding the lake, but that’s about to change according to lake supporter Ted Trantham. Trantham, the owner of the Second Hand City store in Union, will chair a meeting about the lake at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 7, in the auditorium of the Jonesville Municipal Complex. He said the meeting grew out of a conversation he had with a minister who called him about the project last year.
“Last summer, Rev. Bill Adams called me and said, ‘Has anybody in Union thought about getting the lake project revived,’” Trantham said. “I said I’d thought about it, but I’d thought it was a slam dunk the last time. Unfortunately, it got pushed to the side.
“So Bill tells me that (Fourth District Rep.) Trey Gowdey’s father goes to his church, First Baptist in Spartanburg,” he said. “He said, ‘What if I set up a meeting with Trey and we talk about this.’ So last August eight or 10 of us met with Trey in Jonesville for Trey’s convenience because he was at Dollar General. We met with him and he discussed the pros and cons and that money was going to be the big problem, but then he said he’d be happy to help us in anyway he could.”
That help included putting Trantham and his fellow lake proponents in contact with Fifth District Rep. Rick Mulvaney, whose district Union County will be part of after the November election. Trantham said that while he will no longer represent Union County in the U.S. House of Representatives, Gowdey said he will continue to do anything he can to help with the project.
Gowdey will be among those attending the Sept. 7 meeting at the Jonesville Municipal Complex. Trantham said DeMint and U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham have also been invited to attend the meeting as has Gov. Nikki Haley. He said he has also invited Sixth District Rep. Jim Clyburn to attend the meeting to build bipartisan support for the project.
“We’re also trying to get Congressman Jim Clyburn on our side, because it has got to be bipartisan when it goes before Congress,” Trantham said.
Gowdey, DeMint, Graham and Haley are all Republicans.
The members of the Union County Legislative Delegation have also been invited to attend including its chairman, District 42 Rep. Mike Anthony, and State Sens. Harvey Peeler, Shane Martin and Ronnie Cromer.
Union County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair and the members of Union County Council have also been invited to attend as have City of Union Mayor Harold Thompson and the members of Union City Council. Jonesville Mayor Ernest Moore and the members of Jonesville Town Council, Carlisle Mayor Mary Ferguson-Glenn and the members of the Carlisle Town Council and Lockhart Mayor Ailene Ashe and the members of Lockhart Town Council have also been invited to attend.
Trantham said all candidates for public office in Union County have also been invited to attend as well as Union County Development Board Executive Director Andrena Powell-Baker. He said he is also trying to get officials from Laurens County to attend the meeting.
The public is also invited to attend, but Trantham said the meeting will be about the lake project and nothing else.
“The meeting is going to be strictly on this lake project and water,” Trantham said. “Nothing else will be discussed.”
Trantham said he hopes as many people as possible will attend the meeting because the issue is important to the future of Union County and the Upstate.
“Most people in Union County get their water either directly or indirectly from the Broad River and this will be a second source of water for the county,” Trantham said. “It’s going to impact the whole Upstate in terms of water supply and so it’s important that we bring the people of Union County together in support of the lake project.”
For more information about the meeting, contact Ted Trantham at 429-6585.