Santee Cooper plans to drain Lake Busbee within three months, potentially leaving behind a mud pit and dead fish.
Santee Cooper plans to stopping pumping water in the lake and allow the water to drain out through the lake’s pipes and dams between December 2017 and February 2018. And during that time, the lake could stink of rotting fish as the water drains and exposes a muddy sediment.
“There’ll be a period of time when Lake Busbee will be in a transition period and it will not be very pretty to drive by or to look at,” said Ray Pinson, manager of local government and community relations for Santee Cooper.
Because of the contaminants in the sediment, people already can’t fish, swim or boat in the lake that was created to cool the coal-burning Grainger Generating Station shuttered in 2012 and demolished in 2016.
Once the 330-acre lake is drained and the sediment is graded, seedlings of wetland species such as Bald Cyprus and Swamp Tupelo will be planted, according to Santee Cooper.
“Our professional consultants believe that planting the wetlands species could help stabilize those sediments over time,” Pinson said.
Pinson said Santee Cooper would plant 300 to 400 trees per acre, and that it would take 20 years for them to reach 40 feet.
But fish still live in lake, which could remain when the lake is drained.
“I think it has a high probability of smelling bad,” said councilman Thomas Anderson when asked about the fish.
Santee Cooper spokesperson Mollie Gore the company is trying to “minimize” those issues and are “still finalizing specific plans.”
“We don’t really know what to expect as the de-watering takes place,” she said. “It’s possible that fish may be part of that migration. We will be monitoring the process and be able to respond appropriately.”
Pinson was more blunt about the condition of the lake.
“Let’s be clear,” he told council in response to a question about what would happen to the lake’s fish. “It’s going to be ugly for a while.”