Duke faces opposition in lowering lake level

COUNTY — A group of citizens who live on the shores of Lake Keowee appeared at Monday night’s meeting of Pickens County Council to express their opposition to Duke Energy’s intention to allow the level of Lake Jocassee to be lowered.
“We feel this will hurt property values,” said Newton Bridwell, spokesperson for the group.

Bridwell said that Duke officials had claimed that the water supply from the lake was the reason for the company’s support of lowering the lake level, but further research proved that the water used to operate Duke’s power plants without lowering the level.

Allowing the lake level to fall below its artificially maintained current level could cause as many as 46 percent of the docks could be on dry ground, making the docks useless, property owners said.

“The property values will plummet,” Bridwell said.

Bridwell said that because of the benefits of the lake, Duke Energy had been able to sell lakeside lots for a premium profit. Allowing the lake level to drop would rob property owners of the value they had paid for.

Council chair Jennifer Willis said the matter was already on council’s agenda for the night, to be referred to a committee for further study.

Another member of the group said that Duke had released a report indicating that the lowering of the lake level would have negligible economic effect, but that report included the eight counties that draw water from the lake, instead of being limited to the two counties that the lake is in.

Another item that caused concern with county officials was a report that while Duke Energy welcomed input on the matter, anyone who serves on a committee regarding the matter must agree with the power company’s position, or face being removed from the committee.

County administrator Chap Hurst said he would have to check on that.
“If a representative of the county serves with a group but is not allowed to oppose the group, it’s really of no value to the county,” Hurst said.

Council member Neil Smith said that would not be acceptable to the county.
“We don’t want to have a relationship with a company that says if you don’t consent to their way, you’re off the committee,” Smith said. “This is not a rubber stamp.”

Hurst that while the matter required serious attention, the county needs to be clear with its position.

“We need to relate to them that we are not pleased with them,” Hurst said. “Keowee is such a benefit. But if the level is lowered, 20 feet from where you back your boat ramp in, there won’t be enough water to unload your boat (into the lake). That would have a tremendous negative impact on Pickens County’s tax base.”