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- Published on Wednesday, 08 February 2017 15:30
- Written by Ralph Shealy
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WATER TREATMENT PLANT GROUNDBREAKING - From Left to Right: Julia McCusker CoBank, Jerry Strawbridge – SCWSA Chairman, Liz Rosinski – Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA), Michele Cardwell – USDA-RD – Acting State Director, Bob Nelson – SCWSA Board member, Jason Fell – SCWSA – General Manager, Al Stevens – SCWSA Board member, Jimmy Gillian – SCWSA Board member. (Standard-Sentinel photo)
Ground Broken On $21 Million
County Water Treatment Plant
February 2, 2017, was a great day of thanksgiving for Saluda County Water and Sewer Authority (SCWSA).
SCWSA is now under construction for their transformational $21.1 Million Water Treatment Plant (WTP) will be built withdrawing water from Lake Murray. SCWSA’s board first envisioned having their own WTP almost two decades ago. It is now under construction in 2017. SCWSA expects the WTP to be operating by early Summer in 2018.
The WTP is largely financed through a $12,543,000 loan and a $7,133,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture-Rural Development (USDA-RD). In addition, SCWSA received a $500,000 grant from South Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA) and SCWSA’s contribution of up to $1,000,000. CoBank is providing the interim construction financing for the project. The purpose of SCWSA’s WTP is to serve the needs of all citizens throughout the County, residential and industrial.
Rural Saluda County’s need for water is not unique. In 1970, South Carolina’s legislature saw that while it’s urban centers and county seats had established public water and sewer for its citizens, its rural citizens had been neglected. That year, the South Carolina State Legislative Assembly passed a law establishing special purpose districts, creating numerous water and sewer authorities across South Carolina to serve an unmet need. Specifically, it granted SCWSA the right to serve water and sewer for all of the rural and unincorporated areas of Saluda County. This law planted a seed that took over two decades to germinate in Saluda County.
In the early 1990’s, with the assistance of Amick Farms, SCWSA became a reality. USDA-Rural Development provided the funding for SCWSA’s initial waterlines. Which at that time, was the largest project funded in South Carolina and one of the largest in the nation. Since then, SCWSA and USDA-Rural Development (USDA-RD) have been linked with a quick succession of projects that quickly established SCWSA’s presence. This Water Treatment Plant project is not the end, but a remarkable watershed moment in the relationship between USDA-RD and SCWSA.
The $21.1 Million in WTP project costs can be roughly divided among the three contracts as follows: Water Treatment Plant $15.7 Million, Raw Water Intake $3.4 Million, and 1.4 miles of 20-inch Raw Waterlines and 0.5 miles of 10-inch Finished Waterlines and 2.7 miles of 20-inch Finished Waterlines totaling $2.0 Million. With the $500,000 grant funding from RIA, SCWSA elected to increase its water storage capacity from 0.5 to 1 Million Gallons and elected to add chlorine dioxide feed system.
The WTP will initially be able to produce 4 million gallons of water a day (MGD) with the ability to produce 6 MGD shortly after the WTP is operating. SCWSA also planned for future growth with a permit through SCE&G to withdraw up to 15 MGD from Lake Murray.
USDA-RD Rural Utilities Service is unique as a federal agency program. It does not add to the national debt, providing grants to utilities in need from revenue it generates from it loans. The key is that less than half of one percent ever default on an USDA-RD loan. Paradoxically, it is the lender of last resort for rural utilities unable to find financing elsewhere. Under USDA-RD Acting State Director Michele Cardwell’s leadership, USDA-RD has been able to fund an unprecedented sum of projects for rural South Carolina communities. Ms. Cardwell understood that it was necessary to provide the $7.1 Million in grant to SCWSA so that they could maintain reasonable rates for its rural customers.
Correspondingly, SCWSA does not receive any revenue from taxes. SCWSA is a non-profit, special purpose district, run solely on the revenue it receives from its customers. SCWSA is governed by a five-member board of representatives within SCWSA’s service area. They are appointed by the recommendation of our legislative delegation and approval of the governor. Each has a fiduciary duty to protect SCWSA’s interests. They have entrusted, Jason Fell, as General Manager, to run the day to day operations of SCWSA.
SCWSA’s Board members are Jimmy Gillian, Bob Nelson, Al Stevens and Chairman Jerry Strawbridge. This board’s mission is to the dignity of the customer and its employees, the responsibility to provide great water at a reasonable price and wherever financially sustainable, extend water service to those citizens of Saluda County in need. This board had the vision and the resolve to stand its ground, because they knew their cause to be just and right. It took SCWSA over 17 years to get this project to construction. When there was a setback, they never looked backward for very long, they kept moving forward. Specifically, Mr. Strawbridge’s leadership and tenacity were critical factors as to why this project is under construction.
This Water Treatment Plant project is transformative for SCWSA. This project is one of the larger projects ever funded by USDA-RD in South Carolina. This project is remarkable. It allows SCWSA the ability to provide its customers with exceptional water quality. It also provides SCWSA the capacity to offer water to all of Saluda County, to attract commercial and industrial customers, and offer water to all those in the Western Midlands.
With the WTP project commencing, SCWSA is looking to USDA-RD this year for assistance in funding the Holley Ferry / Spann Road Project. It projects to provide water service to over 700 new customers in rural Saluda County. Following the above map, the water lines will extend to the southern county line on Hwy 391 and waterlines around the Holley Ferry Road area. It will also provide an arterial line from Hwy 391, across Corley Bridge Road, and down Spann Road creating a second waterline to Amick Farms and Western Saluda County. This project will also create an interconnection with Ward on Spann Road. The project will involve constructing two new elevated storage tanks one on the northern end of Spann Road and the other on the southern end of Spann Road along with a booster pump station creating two separate pressure zones. The Holley Ferry / Spann Road Project will significantly advance SCWSA’s water system.
SCWSA appreciates the help and support of U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham’s office, U.S. Senator Tim Scott’s office, U.S. Representative Jeff Duncan’s office, SC Senator Shane Massey, SC Senator Floyd Nicholson, SC Senator Nikki Setzler, SC Representative Bill Clyburn, former SC Representative Ralph Kennedy and look forward to current SC Representative Cal Forrest’s support. Additionally, SCWSA appreciates the help and support of Saluda County Council including Chairman Don Hancock, USDA-Rural Development Acting State Director Michele Cardwell, USDA-RD Area Director Debbie Turbeville, and RD Specialist Bryan Jordan, RIA Executive Director Bonnie Ammons and RIA Program Manager Liz Rosinski, RIA Director Bill Clyburn, CoBank Vice President Julia McCusker, former SCWSA Board member Tim Taylor, SCWSA’s Employees and everyone else that helped along the way. SCWSA also thanks its Design Engineers, MBD Consulting Engineers, P.A. and Hulsey McCormick & Wallace. SCWSA looks forward to a successful WTP project with its Contractors: Harper Corporation General Contractors (WTP), Republic Contracting (Raw Water Intake), and Chandler Construction (Waterlines).