PICKENS COUNTY – Six representatives from Pickens County recently came out in strong opposition to Duke Energy’s relicensing agreement on the Keowee-Toxaway hydroelectric project, which gives Greenville Water Authority access to water in Lake Keowee for the next 40 years.
The project will allow Greenville Water Authority to set tap fees and rates for Pickens County taxpayers for the next four decades, according to Pickens County Administrator Chappell Hurst.
“Who are they to tell us we can’t have access to the water on our own shoreline,” County councilmember Tom Ponder said. “Life is simple. It’s either right or wrong, and what Duke Power and Greenville Water Authority are doing is wrong to the taxpayers and citizens of Pickens County.”
The council voted 6-0 in opposition of the project.
According to Hurst, Greenville currently has two intake pipes that draw water from Lake Keowee while the county has none. Duke Energy, which owns the lake basin, has said it does not want to add additional intakes at this time. As it stands now, the cities of Liberty and Pickens purchase some water from Greenville, according to Hurst.
“This is a slap in the face to Pickens County,” county councilmember Trey Whitehurst said. “What we’re looking at is water for the next 40 years in Pickens County. We have to look way down the road here, and what they’re doing is basically telling us we can’t use our own water. Duke does not own the water in that lake. That is a county lake.”
Ponder said this is a huge issue for Pickens County taxpayers.
“He who controls the water will control who lives and dies,” Ponder said. “These people don’t have the best interests of Pickens County taxpayers and citizens in mind when they make these types of decisions.”
“Duke Power has not been our friend through the years. They’re not our friend today and they won’t be tomorrow,” Ponder said.
Council chairman Neil Smith said he is not comfortable with the new agreement.
“I don’t feel like I could vote to allow Greenville Water Authority to have a monopoly,” Smith said. “That’s something that concerns me deeply.”
Ponder said he was skeptical of the two entities from the beginning of this project.
“When this water line went across Pickens County, the Pickens County Council had no say,” Ponder said. “The council was completely eliminated from any discussion.”
County councilmember Randy Crenshaw said his decision to vote no was an easy one.
“Greenville has already got water from the Saluda River and now they’re getting Keowee water. I just can’t vote for that,” Crenshaw said. “I couldn’t come back and face the people of Pickens County if I voted for something like that.”