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February 4, 2010

Public weighs in on potential Hartwell PCB settlement projects

The Trustee Council for the Lake Hartwell PCB settlement, which includes Georgia Department of Natural Resources, S.C. Department of Natural Resources, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, South Carolina Governors Office, United States Army Corps of Engineers and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, recently requested public input on how to spend the remaining Lake Hartwell PCB settlement funds from the Schlumberger Technology Corporation.
Comments were solicited through an online survey posted by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and a public meeting held in Anderson County on Nov. 17, 2009. Nearly 3,000 people responded to the call for public input.
The funds must be spent on projects that compensate the public for losses of recreational fishing services that occurred as a result of the contamination. This includes creating opportunities for the public to harvest fish that are not subject to fish consumption advisories, enhancing the recreational fishery of Lake Hartwell, 12-Mile Creek and the surrounding area and implementation of projects designed to improve the habitat and natural resources.
Several potential projects were introduced to the public through exhibits, presentations and short videos. Respondents were asked to rank each project as "strongly support" to "don’t support." Projects were given a weighted rating average based on the number of votes received in each of the four support categories. In the end the Lake Hartwell Fish Habitat Enhancement project received the most public support with a rated average of 3.94. This project calls for the use of large wood debris such as stumps to create fish habitat. Installation of gravel to provide spawning substrate for a variety of species and aquatic vegetation installed to provide and enhance cover in nursery areas. The $2.8 million plan would take 10 years to fully implement.
The remaining potential projects all received strong support ranking in the following order: Public Access/Fishing Piers (3.69), Hartwell Tailrace Fishing Access (3.46), Green Pond Event Center (3.40) and Off-site Recreational Fishing (3.21).
In addition to the potential projects, the public was asked to provide input on several projects that are not currently included in the Trustee Council recommendations. This included reallocating funding for the removal of the Easley Central Dam. Of the respondents that answered the question 53.2 percent agreed with this reallocation. The construction of a Water Education and Environmental Center did not test as well with 52.8 percent disagreeing with the reallocation of funds for its construction.
Public input results were presented to the Trustee Council for consideration as it finalizes the South Carolina Recreational Fishing Compensation Plan.

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