If a reservoir can be built next to the San Andreas Fault in California then Patriot's Lake can be built atop two earthquake faults, according to Union County Supervisor Donnie Betenbaugh.
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 report includes a study by University of South Carolina geologists who determined that the dam would sit on top of two recently active earthquake faults. Opponents have cited this as yet another reason the lake shouldn't be built.
Betenbaugh, however, pointed out that lakes and dams throughout South Carolina and the rest of the country are built on or near earthquake faults.
“Right now, almost every lake in the State of South Carolina is on a fault line. The Crystal Springs Reservoir in California, its dam was built 400 feet off the San Andreas Fault which is one of the largest fault lines in the country. There's nowhere in this country that there's not a fault line somewhere close. It's everywhere.”
(Built and originally owned by the Spring Valley Water Company, Crystal Springs Reservoir is now owned by the City of San Francisco. Located in San Mateo County in a rift valley created by the San Andreas Fault, it is composed of two reservoirs: The Upper Crystal Springs Reservoir which is dammed by an earthen dam; and the Lower Crystal Reservoir which is dammed by the much larger, concrete Crystal Springs Dam. Completed in 1890, Crystal Springs Dam survived both the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes despite its proximity to the San Andreas Fault. Source: wikipedia.org)
Betenbaugh said that dams are built and/or can be improved to withstand earthquakes.
“They know how to make dams, that's what they just did at Lake Marion; they just upgraded their dam down there to make it better in case there are earthquakes,” he said. “So they're not hindrances to building a dam nor a lake.”
Erosion and seepage
The study also concluded that the soil in the area is highly vulnerable to erosion. Opponents also claim the study raises the possibility of water seepage.
Betenbaugh, however, pointed out that all lakes have erosion problems which are dealt with on a routine basis.
“I think you've got erosion problems at any lake,” he said. “I can take you to any lake and you'll find those issues. Every lake I've ever been too has had some issues with erosion.”
As for seepage, Betenbaugh said he feels this can be dealt with through the proper engineering of the dam and the lake.
Lake proponents have criticized the study for emphasizing challenges involved in the construction of the lake while not paying enough attention to its benefits. The county plans to conduct its own study of issues it feels were not effectively covered by the study including economic and recreational development.
Opponents contend that the Tyger River and the Sumter National Forest are already great assets for Union County. Betenbaugh, however, said the county has not been able to obtain those benefits because of cuts in the federal budget.
“We've got 63,000 acres of land in Union County, national forest land, which is a tremendous asset for a community to have,” he said. “However, we need to see some economic benefits from that (and) we haven't seen those. We don't even have a campground in our 63,000-acre national forest land because the federal government cut out all the money to do so. We don't have a proper boat ramp in the county. We don't have the things that we should have now that would benefit us in our national forest because of federal budget cuts.
“The people that lead the Sumter National Forest are a great group of folks but they can only do as much as the federal budget allows them to do,” he said. “When they constantly see cuts and when they constantly have to cut back, we don't see those benefits.”
Betenbaugh said this lack of support from the federal government has prevented the county from reaping the benefits of having a national forest within its boundaries.
“There hasn't been a budget increase in the Sumter National Forest budget in years,” he said. “If there was there'd be enough money to keep the campgrounds open, they'd have enough money to make a nice campground so we could draw people in. There's nothing happening there.”