Want to build Patriot's Lake? Your share will cost $333.
The proposed 6,500-acre lake, which would be formed by the damming of Tyger River and Fairforest Creek, has been the subject of a three-year “concept study” by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The study projects that construction of the lake will cost $187 million. While that's a large sum, Union County Supervisor Donnie Betenbaugh said it's not as daunting as it might seem at first glance.
“We think the Corps did a good job in trying to come up with some estimates on the value there and $187 million may be on the high side,” he said. “However, if you look at it based on our region, if you look at it just based on the (Fourth) Congressional District we're only talking about $333 per resident in this congressional district.
“We're not talking about a whole lot of money in comparison to the almost half-a-million dollars per resident that was spent in New Orleans or other places in this country where money is being spent by the federal government to improve the quality of life for the citizens of this country,” he said. “We don't think that's a whole lot of money and we think the benefit to the region and the opportunities for a water supply for everyone in this region far outweighs the cost.”
Potential water, power source
Proponents of the lake have touted it as a needed water source for the county and the Upstate, especially in time of drought and increasing population growth in and around South Carolina. The lake is also seen as a boon for economic development and a possible source of hydroelectric power.
The lake is opposed by a coalition of environmental groups which claim the Corps' study did not take into account related costs such as construction of a water treatment plant and distribution line; acquisition of right-of-ways, possible property condemnation and compensation for landowners whose property would be seized; development of infrastructure to support residential growth spawned by the lake's presence. Opponents claim this could boost the cost of the lake to close to $500 million.
(Based on Betenbaugh's reasoning, that would mean the lake would cost around $900 per resident of the Fourth Congressional District. The lake study committee, however, has been advised by an expert on lake construction that the lake could be built for as little as $90 million. Again, using Betenbaugh's reasoning, this could reduce the cost to around $180 per resident.)
Opponents' estimates questioned
Betenbaugh questioned the estimates put forward by the lake's opponents.
“I'm not qualified to estimate costs nor are the lawyers able to qualify or estimate costs on what it would cost to put in the treatment facilities and those types of things,” he said. “I think that's better suited to leave those questions outside of this document to the professionals.”
The county has reviewed the Corps' report and expressed concerns that its limited scope did not did not deal in-depth with a number of issues related to the construction of the lake, including the impact of population growth and economic development; the need for additional sources of water; and the potential for the generation of hydroelectric power; and recreation. Betenbaugh said the county plans to conduct its own in-depth study of those issues.
He said the focus for now is the construction of the dam and its benefit to the people of Union County and the Upstate and succeeding generations.
“Right now we're just talking about the dam and I think $187 million is not a far reach and it's something that's actually very beneficial,” he said. “I think the people in South Carolina and the people in the Upstate of South Carolina are worth that plus a lot more. Our kids and grandkids are worth it.”