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The Lake Busbee Decision

December 06, 2017   By Nicole Aiello in Community

The 325-acre Lake Busbee began life as an industrial cooling pond for Santee Cooper’s Grainger Generating Station when the plant entered commercial operation in 1966.

You may have heard the news this week that the city of Conway and Santee Cooper have agreed to allow Lake Busbee to return to wetlands. We’ve been asked questions about the decision, so I wanted to give you some more information.

First, Lake Busbee isn’t a natural lake. The reason it’s there is because it was the cooling pond for the Grainger Generating Station. Is it pretty? Absolutely. Was it meant for recreation? Never.

However, we know that many people love Lake Busbee, which is why we gave the local stakeholders the chance to keep it as a lake. After Grainger closed in 2012, Santee Cooper talked with city of Conway officials and other stakeholders about what they would like to do. 

Without an active generating station, there is no business need for an industrial cooling pond. And, to be frank, we can’t justify the costs to our customers to continue pumping water into Busbee.

We understand the emotional connection to Lake Busbee, and we know change can be difficult. And with the cooling pond being a feature off of U.S. Highway 501 since the 1960s, I understand how people can be anxious over what’s going to happen.

Here’s what we plan to do:

First, we will stop pumping water into Lake Busbee. As this happens, we will monitor the process and drain water in a responsible manner in order to minimize any impact on wildlife, including fish.

Once the water recedes and the ground is stabilized, we will plant native saplings, at 300 to 400 trees per acre, that match nearby wetlands. Think about the beauty of bald cypress and swamp tupelo trees.

I’ll be honest with you; The transformation will take time. And there may be times that the area doesn’t look as pretty as it does right now. However, the end result will be a lovely, natural wetlands area that should start being recognized as forest within 10 years.

Of course, we’ll be proceeding with all the appropriate state and federal agency approvals. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has already approved a closure plan for the pond that allows it to return to wetlands.

Santee Cooper and Conway have studied this extensively and believe this is the best decision for the community. In addition, this is best for our customers because it eliminates the cost of maintaining a cooling pond that’s no longer needed.