On lawmakers’ first day back in Columbia for this year’s legislative session, state Rep. John McCravy met with key officials in securing funding for a new dam at Lake Conestee.
The existing 130-year-old Conestee Dam was built with a predicted lifespan of about 50 years. Behind it, 2.3 million cubic yards of toxic waste are held under sediment, and reports of damage to the dam predict an imminent environmental catastrophe should the dam fail.
In the past year, local and state officials in Greenwood, Laurens and Greenville — where the dam is located — have been working out a solution alongside state Department of Health and Environmental Control staff.
On Tuesday, as lawmakers were heading back to Columbia, McCravy said he met with the chairperson of the House Ways and Means committee, Bruce Bannister. Staff from DHEC, trustees of Conestee foundation and others were part of this meeting, which McCravy said was intended to drum up support for funding the construction of a new dam 10 feet downriver of the existing one.
“We cannot wait for the culpable parties to pay for this,” McCravy said. “I think we came out of that meeting with people feeling favorable toward a state emergency fund for this.”
McCravy said he thinks if the requested $47.5 million for the dam makes it through the House and Senate budgeting process, construction will be able to start as soon as funding is secured. This meeting is just another step in the process, McCravy said, but it was an important step toward avoiding what’s been characterized as a disaster waiting to happen.
Contact staff writer Damian Dominguez at 864-634-7548 or follow on Twitter @IJDDOMINGUEZ.