By Bill Poovey
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, speaking Thursday in Anderson, said he knows Lake Hartwell is important to the region's economy but isn't ready to address complaints about managing the water level.
Speaking along with U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan at an Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon, both Republicans also talked about the need to start reducing a $17 trillion national debt.
Scott, holding a microphone as he walked among about 100 people seated around tables at the Tri-County Technical College campus in Anderson, said he has found out the lake is vital to the area economy.
"That back table has already convinced me that Lake Hartwell doesn't look very good when it's dry," Scott said, referring to a group that included Lake Hartwell Association President Herb Burnham.
Scott, who was appointed in January to the Senate seat vacated by Jim DeMint, said he wants to get better informed before making any comment about the U.S. Army Corps-managed lake on the Savannah River.
Duncan described the water level as being the "driver of an economic engine."
"It's an important issue for Anderson County," he said.
After remarks about GOP-led efforts to cut federal spending, Duncan said there is no quick fix for preventing severe declines in the lake's water level, such as a drop to about 15 feet below full stage late last year in the throes of extended drought, just after a level of 22 feet down in 2008.
With recent abundant rainfall and the Corps seasonally slowing the rate of release from the lake, the water level has returned to almost full stage.
"We have got to change how they manage that," Duncan said.
He said downstream water flow demands by state environmental agencies are competing against lake interests. Duncan predicted that making any change will be a "long term" effort.
The 3rd District congressman in other remarks to the audience said raising the federal debt ceiling is "probably the right thing to do." He predicted Republicans are going to be seeking tradeoffs.
"What do we get for raising that debt ceiling?" he said.
Scott told the audience, "We have lost our way. We have forgotten how to save a little before we start spending."