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McMaster Email Dams Waccamaw River & Conway Homes?

An email revealed Governor Henry McMaster is behind the Lake Busbee, Highway 501 dam effort in Conway.  Some city officials believe the dam could flood an additional 900 City of Conway homes on the Waccamaw River. City of Conway officials say thousands of one-ton sandbags are being used to dam up the Waccamaw River at the former Santee Cooper Lake Busbee plant. Otherwise the river  would  put three feet of water on the roadway completely closing Highway 501 to East bound traffic towards Carolina Forest and Myrtle Beach.

The city of Conway filed an injunction yesterday to halt construction of the dam.  However, SCDOT Secretary Christy Hall said the state isn’t building a dam at the former Lake Busbee Santee Cooper plant.

Kevin Hardee
S.C. Horry County State Representative Kevin Hardee

After a day of MyrtleBeachSC news being told the decision was made by SCDOT and with no confirmation of such, late last night S.C. State Representative Kevin Hardee posted the below email on Social Media.

Said Hardee, “I disagree with people who have stated that no one cares about Conway. If anyone tells you that SCDOT and the Governor’s Office didn’t make the decision regarding 501, they’re just confused. They did the same thing during Hurricane Floyd. As you can see from this correspondence from the Governor to Santee Cooper, there’s no mystery power brokers involved, and there’s no political bullshit going on.”

September 16, 2018
James E. Brogdon, Jr., Esquire
Interim President and Chief Executive Officer South Carolina Public Service Authority
Post Office Box 2946101
Moncks Corner, South Carolina 29461-2901

Dear Judge Brogdon:

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me again this afternoon regarding the impact of ongoing weather events on the South Carolina Public Service Authority’s (“Santee Cooper”) operations and facilities.
As we discussed, I am seriously concerned about the structural integrity of the coal ash ponds adjacent to Santee Cooper’s decommissioned Grainger Generating Station (“GGS”) and the environmental risks associated with anticipated river flooding. Accordingly, this letter will confirm my request that Santee Cooper act immediately and take all appropriate measures to protect the environment, to include placing large sandbags on the dikes surrounding the GGS ash ponds to prevent breaches, overtopping, or other failures. By copy of this letter to the Board of Directors, I am advising them of the foregoing concerns and directing them to act forthwith to address the same and avoid any risk that water, ash, or sediment is released from the GGS ash ponds.
Please keep me informed of your progress. Should you have any questions or concerns, or if I can be of assistance in any way, please do not hesitate to call. I look forward to your prompt attention to this important matter.
Yours very truly,
Henry McMaster
cc: Board of Directors of Santee Cooper
c/o Elizabeth Henry Warner, Esquire, Corporate Secretary

An email sent out earlier by Horry County Councilman Al Allen confirmed the Highway 378 route would likely be the only way into Myrtle Beach. However, to keep that route open, SCDOT will need to dam up  378 as well.  Crews are also working to build a nearly mile-long dam along U.S. 378 where the Lynches River flows under it in Florence County.

Little Pee Dee Bridge
Little Pee Dee Bridge Highway 501. SCDOT Photo During Hurricane Matthew

Allen’s email indicated that the Highway 501 Gallivants Ferry Bridge, the Highway 917 bridge and areas along Highway 9 could be completely flooded shutting off east bound traffic later this week.

As WPDE news reports, Conway City Administrator Adam Emrick said he spoke with DOT leaders Sunday morning, and they couldn’t answer his concerns that the barriers wouldn’t worsen city flooding in Conway.

“The very simple question is, ‘Have they ran models? Have they ran any scientific data that show that’s not going to happen?’ And we cannot get an answer that says they’ve done that,” he said. “In fact, we’ve been told they haven’t.”

Emrick said county projections indicate the Waccamaw River could rise four feet higher than it did after Hurricane Matthew. He doesn’t want to take any chances.

“If any water that is displaced in their homes or businesses or critical infrastructure that could’ve been avoided if not for those barriers, that’s an unacceptable solution,” he said.

If waters do rise up to the levels of 501 and they were barricaded by a buffer of some sort, that would back up or dam up water, pushing more water into the areas of Conway that don’t normally flood,” Conway Councilman William Goldfinch told WPDE news yesterday.

SCDOT Secretary Christy Hall said the state isn’t building a dam at the former Lake Busbee Santee Cooper plant.

“One of the misconceptions there may be is we’re not actually damming the Waccamaw River,” Hall said. “Waccamaw River will continue to flow underneath the bridge. So we’re not damming the … river itself, but we are putting something in place, basically, to raise the elevation of the shoulder of the roadway to make sure that roadway — the road leading up to the bridge, on both sides — stays dry.”

MyrtleBeachSC news wrote about these concerns after Hurricane Matthew in 2016.  We advocated for a higher bridge at Gallivants Ferry at that time.  Read about that here:  https://myrtlebeachsc.com/hurricane-matthews-second-wave-thousands-flee/

It is clear some measures are needed at the former Lake Busbee plant as well.   Elected representatives, County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus, SC Rep. Russel Frye and other elected advocates for the $2.4 billion I-73 came out in force on Social Media and in the news yesterday. However, if the Gallivants Ferry bridge were upgraded and elevated, detour routes like International Drive are now available from Highway 90 for tourists and residents so they can avoid the section of 501 along Lake Busbee.

Planned Route Currently Flooded. To Be Built On Swampland

Building the two upgrades on Highway 501 (using existing Hospitality taxes) would cost in the millions.  Currently $20 million annually is set aside for I-73 by a recent County Council vote.  That $20 million could more than fix the two bridge issues along Highway 501.

No additional funding is promised for I-73.  Without funding, it is unclear when or if the road will ever be built.   Marion County and Dillon County have each stated they will not help fund the Interstate.  Washington, D.C., Governor McMaster and the S.C. General Assembly have also been unwilling to  promise funding for the I-73 Horry County connector.

As we reported yesterday,  the projected route is over swamp land that is entirely flooded this week.  https://myrtlebeachsc.com/i-73-proposed-route-entirely-flooded-would-be-impassable-in-days/

Florence Would Have Made I-73 An Impossible Return Route To Myrtle Beach




About David Hucks

Born in 1961, David is a 12th generation descendant of the area we now call Myrtle Beach, S.C. David attended Coastal Carolina University and like most of his family, has never left the area. David is the lead journalist at MyrtleBeachSC.com

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