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Located approximately seven miles downstream from Greenville, South Carolina, Lake Conestee and the Lake Conestee Preserve provide unique and valuable ecological resources for the upstate of South Carolina through their riverine and lacustrine habitats and the associated upland resources. The lake was formed in 1892 by a dam across the Reedy River installed to provide hydroelectric power for Conestee Village and Conestee Mill. Built to last only fifty years or so, the dam is well beyond its engineered life span. As a result, it has significant deficiencies that require immediate action. If the dam were to fail, there would be serious consequences downstream, including the release of 2 to 3.25 million cubic yards of sediment contaminated with hazardous substances into the mainstem of the Reedy River, which flows directly to Lake Greenwood, Greenwood County's only source of drinking water. To put it into context, that is enough contaminated sediment to fill a football stadium to the brim twice over! A breached dam would also result in the loss of approximately 400 acres of riverine, lacustrine, and wetland resources in the reservoir and its upstream habitat, including a bird sanctuary providing a home to more than 225 species of birds. Finally, it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up, decimate water-based activities and tourism, and negatively impact property values all along the Reedy River system and Lake Greenwood.
Fortunately, there is a solution. Since 2012, three commissioned engineering studies and countless hours of work have pointed to the solution: Recommended Alternative #9 – construction of a new dam immediately downstream of the existing dam. Attempting to fix the existing dam or tear it out would result in mobilization and release of the contaminated sediments, a result DHEC and EPA have said is an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment. The Lake Conestee Dam Restoration Project (“LCDRP”) has consolidated the years of accumulated knowledge and effort and channeled it towards implementing this solution. With enormous support of the public in and around Lake Conestee and the Reedy River downstream of the lake, all the way to Lake Murray, and generous funding from the SC General Assembly, we will succeed. Now is the time to fix this for the communities of the Reedy River and for all South Carolinians. Now is the time.