Water Study Up for Review

WINNSBORO – The continuing search for additional supplies of water enters its next phase in coming weeks, as the Town of Winnsboro and Fairfield County prepare to meet with the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss the Corps’s recently completed water supply study. The meeting is tentatively slated for April 16.

The Corps first came to Fairfield County in September 2012 at a time when the Town of Winnsboro’s reservoirs were just under 50 percent full, a statewide drought was in full force and negotiations between the town and the City of Columbia for the purchase of water were running hot and cold. Since then, the environment has improved considerably. A wet winter in 2012, followed by an uncharacteristically wet summer in 2013, helped restore Winnsboro’s native water supply, while a deal with Columbia, inked in June 2013, secured an additional 1 million gallons of water a day.

During the Corps’ initial visit, several ideas were kicked around for sources of additional water, including the Broad River, Lake Wateree and Lake Monticello, each with price tags soaring into the tens of millions of dollars. Local government leaders, however, who are still reviewing the more than 400-page study, said the Corps appears to be leaning toward recommending a status quo solution.

“They feel the best way to go is to continue to get water from Columbia,” Winnsboro Mayor Roger Gaddy said last week. “But Winnsboro doesn’t want to be dependent on Columbia, or continue to pay the price for it.”

County Council Chairman David Ferguson (District 5) said that was his impression of the study as well, but added that the study, which the County received in January, was in draft form and could change.

“There are still some things that could change,” Ferguson said. “It is a draft. We’ll just have to see.”

A water line out to Lake Monticello, Ferguson said, could run as much as $12 million to complete. After the April 16 joint meeting, Ferguson said, meetings would likely be scheduled with Rep. Mick Mulvaney’s office to seek out grants or low-interest loans to help fund such a potential project. But if such an ambitious project even ever gets off the ground remains to be seen.

“We (the County) aren’t in the driver’s seat,” Ferguson said. “We’re going to more or less do what the Town of Winnsboro wants to do, as much as we can.”

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