Chances dimmed Wednesday that a bill intended to protect rivers from excessive withdrawals will pass the Legislature this year.
For the second consecutive week, the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources committee failed to agree on the bill that requires new industries to get state permits to withdraw large amounts of water.
Senators are deadlocked because major industries can’t agree with conservation groups and state natural resource agencies over minimum flows for rivers. Permits for new industries would be based, in part, on how their withdrawals affected established minimum flows. ....
Representatives of Duke Energy said Wednesday they want a permitting bill, but favor setting one minimum water level standard.
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control favor a flexible standard that would require more water in the river during certain times of the year. They say the standard should reflect naturally occurring changes in water levels.
Fish, for instance, need higher water levels during the spring to spawn. That includes the ever-dwindling striped bass, DNR officials said.
Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, said the Legislature needs to make sure the bill is crafted to protect a public resource — rivers — over the over future industrial expansion.
“We need to make sure we leave enough water for boats, bass and Bubba,” Campsen said. “That ought to be our number one priority. If we err, we should err on the side of being overly protective of that resource."
-- Sammy Fretwell