Conway and Santee Cooper agree to let Lake Busbeereturn to wetlands

(WPDE file image)

The City of Conway and Santee Cooper have agreed to let Lake Busbee return to wetlands.

The Conway City Council cemented that decision Monday night with a unanimous vote against taking ownership of the cooling pond.

Related: City officials share thoughts, concerns for future of Lake Busbee

Lake Busbee was built as an industrial cooling pond in the 1960s by Santee Cooper.

The Grainger Power Plant it was built for shut down in 2012 and Santee Cooper continued to pump water into the lake to maintain it.

Related: Lake Busbee's future in question with power plant coming down

But Santee Cooper spokesperson Susan Mungo said between pumping in water and maintaining the grass around the area, it costs them about $100,000 a year and that's money they don't want to spend much longer.

Santee Cooper will stop pumping water into the pond this month.

Mungo says the plan is to pump Lake Busbee and its creatures back into the Waccamaw River.

This is what the timeline looks like: Depending on rainfall and other weather conditions, it is estimated to take about three months to draw down the pond, from December to February. Next, letting the lake bed breathe from April to November, planting seedlings of trees to match nearby wetlands next December, and monitor all of the progress from then through March 2024.

Santee Cooper plans to plant tree seedlings that will match nearby wetlands, such as bald cypress and swamp tupelo, according to the release.

"All work will proceed with appropriate state and federal agency approvals in place," Santee Cooper said, noting that the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has already approved a closure plan for the pond that allows it to return to wetlands.

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