After four years of negotiations, the House passed final reading Wednesday on legislation that would set up a permitting laws to control South Carolina’s rivers and lakes.
Executive Director of Conservation Votes of South Carolina Ann Timberlake says the conservation community and other stakeholders reached agreement. She says establishing a permitting process is the beginning of protecting the state’s fresh waterways, just as other states have done.
The Senate will have to consider changes made in the House before the bill is sent to Governor Sanford.
The law would require new water users like industries to have contingency plans so that they can cease use of water when stream flows drop too low, in order to protect wildlife, recreation, and downstream users.
Timberlake says there was a lot of compromise, on the different sides involved, that went into getting the bill passed. She says the Water Withdrawal Permitting, Use, and Reporting Act gives water managers a full picture of who is taking how much water and when, and where that water is being used, which she says is essential as South Carolina negotiates with other states over shared water resources like the Savannah, Catawba-Wateree, and Pee Dee rivers.
“South Carolina recognizes that water is a public resource that has to be protected from overuse in order to promote fishing, recreation, and navigation. This bill is an important first step in protecting South Carolina against future droughts and other states that are after our water,” said Dana Beach, Executive Director of the Coastal Conservation League.
According to Ben Gregg, Executive Director of South Carolina Wildlife Federation, “This bill will add an additional layer of protection for fisheries, wildlife and boaters.”