Congressman Clyburn's Statement on Lake Marion Water System Groundbreaking

Jan 18, 2005

(Santee, SC) - Sixth District Congressman James E. Clyburn made the following remarks at the groundbreaking for the Lake Marion Regional Water System's water treatment facility in Santee, South Carolina: 

            "I consider today's groundbreaking to be one of the most significant events with which I have ever been involved.  This is an exemplary step towards embracing the regional cooperation needed to improve the plight of residents and communities along the I-95 corridor; residents who are suffering from poor health indices and reeling from high unemployment, and communities that are being ravaged by the lack of infrastructure, and stifled by under funded schools. For some residents this is the first step toward quality drinking water and for some communities it is the first step toward attracting much needed economic investments.

            "When I went to Congress 12 years ago, I pledged to do everything humanly possible to eliminate the negatives and accentuate the positives in this region.  It took many years to create many of our current conditions, but in the last 12 we have begun to put the pieces of a complicated puzzle in place to improve the quality of life for the people who live, work and recreate in this area. 

            "The LakeMarionwater project, whose physical plant begins with today's ceremony, has been more than 11 years in the making.  Eventually this water system will provide up to 12 million gallons of potable water per day.  It will utilize this area's extraordinary asset, LakeMarion, to bring quality water to communities in Calhoun, Clarendon, Dorchester, Orangeburg and Sumtercounties.  This is the first piece, and a very key piece, in the puzzle that will develop the water and sewer infrastructure that is pivotal to attracting new economic investments needed to create jobs and improve tax bases, which are the only ways to increase funding for education, access to quality health care and affordability of housing. 

            "There are other pieces of this metaphoric puzzle that are being put in place.  Just 10 minutes from here, OrangeburgCountyofficials recently dedicated the JohnW.MatthewsIndustrial Parkat U. S. Highways 301 and 178.  Fifteen minutes from here, is the I-95/I-26 interchange, an untapped asset that is beginning to receive some serious attention from private developers.  If done correctly, that intersection can provide the engine that drives the economy of this region for many years to come.  The South CarolinaWorldTradeCenterhas already committed to the pursuit of a WorldTradeParkand is seeking to partner with South CarolinaStateUniversityto establish an EducationResearchCenterat the site.  This proposed development could be the perfect compliment to an inland port and inter-modal facility at that intersection, to which I remain committed and private developers are beginning to express interest. 

            "Although it will take time, more time than I think is necessary, I am optimistic that in the foreseeable future we will be putting these pieces of the puzzle in place as well.  Just as transportation infrastructure is the asset that will drive the economy along the I-95 corridor, the lack of this crucial puzzle piece in other areas of this region has contributed to the most pronounced negative conditions in remote areas of this region. 

            "LakeMarionis a tremendous tourism asset, but for those who live on the upper end of this man-made treasure it has created literal and figurative dead ends.  At the urging of elected officials and local residents, I remain committed to the Briggs-Delaine-Pearson Connector.   Connecting State Highways 33 and 120 will create a commerce and recreational corridor that would enhance tourism and facilitate local accessibility.  Building this bridge and connecting two dead end state highways will create a new route that will connect Bambergto Florenceand Orangeburg to Sumter.  This essential puzzle piece, just 15 minutes from America's newest National Park, will connect the northern and southern routes of two national bicycle trails.  It will connect the Palmetto Trail to the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor that was created by an amendment that I proudly authored.  This region, labeled by a few of my detractors as "nowhere," has been needlessly and unwisely neglected.  We have made it almost impossible for natives to remain there, and uncomfortable for others to visit. 

            "Let me tell you a few things about this "nowhere."  It is home to hundreds of my classmates and schoolmates at South CarolinaStatewho, upon graduation, were compelled to seek suitable employment and professional development outside of the state and area.  Scores of them return to the area on Sundays to attend church but are forced to live in Sumter, Columbia, Florence, Charlestonand other South Carolinacities during the week.  Many of them have shared with me their preferences to live on their land and raise their children in their native environments. And they would do so if they had sufficient water and sewer, and suitable roads and bridges.  I do not have to tell you what has happened too much of the land many of them were forced to abandon.  We must do better by these people and their property.

            "In addition to the above, it is now being acknowledged that tourism is South Carolina's number one industry.  Over 40,000 cars travel through our state each day along the I-95 corridor.  We have to give them a reason to leave the interstate and enjoy the treasures South Carolinahas to offer in addition to its coast.  LakeMarionis a tremendous source of recreation and heritage tourism along I-95, and provides a wealth of nature-based activities like hunting, fishing and boating.  There are wonderful golf courses throughout this area, and I believe more should be developed along State Highways 33 and 120, which I believe could become an attraction that will rival the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama.

"Our state has a rich history and heritage.  For that reason, I have been one of the leading advocates in Congress for heritage and cultural corridors that will enable tourism officials to promote our historic treasures.  Along the I-95 corridor is the potential to highlight South Carolina's significant Revolutionary and Civil War sites.  All along the I-95 corridor are communities with Native American names -- Santee, Eutawville, Eutaw Springs, Coosawhatchie, Edisto, Pocotaligo.  I believe there is enough untapped and untold history of Native Americans in South Carolina to create nature trails that draw on these treasures, not the least of which are the cave right here in Santee and the burial mound on the other side of the lake.  

            "While promoting our historic treasures, these heritage corridors can also be a vehicle to preserve them as well.  Although Congress adjourned last year before my Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Act could become law, I will pursue it again this session because it will tap into the heritage tourism industry, which is the fastest growing tourism sector.  It will protect the land ownership rights of the indigenous people and help preserve their culture and their resources that are currently being threatened.  These are a few other pieces of the puzzle that need to be put in place to help make the entire picture more complete. 

            "Obviously, opportunities to enhance the I-95 corridor are not limited to areas surrounding LakeMarion.  In ColletonCounty, the Buzz Aldrin Business and TechnologyPark, named for the famous astronaut, is a piece of the puzzle that holds promise for bringing development to the southern end of I-95.  ColletonCountyofficials are developing the Great Swamp Sanctuary in Walterboro that contains walking and canoe trails with plans to create a discovery center for educational opportunities.  And considering its heritage and history, ColletonCountycould very well benefit disproportionately from my Gullah-Ghechee legislation.

           "The Pee DeeTouchstoneEnergyCommerceParkat Highway 327 and I-95 anchors the northern end of this major interstate that runs for 130 miles through the 6th district.  This facility covers 714-acres, and is the largest industrial park to be developed on the I-95 corridor from Floridato Virginiain the last ten years. It is served by the Pee Dee Area Water Agency serving Florence, Darlington, Marlboro and Dillon, for which I am proud to have secured federal funding. 

            "I am also proud to have secured federal funds for Science South that is developing a hands-on science center at a site along I-95 in DillonCountyto enhance current projects that provide resources to educators in their school settings.  Although most of these projects obviously capitalize on their proximity to I-95 and are commercial in nature, many of them are also beneficial to residential communities as well.  In fact, one of my priorities for the Pee Deearea this year is the Pine Needles Roadproject.

            "Airports are another important infrastructure needed for many potential employers.  Both the LowCountryRegionalAirportin Walterboro and the FlorenceRegionalAirport, have made improvements that can accommodate all sizes of aircraft.  And similar improvements need to be made to the St.GeorgeAirportas well.

            "I hope the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit together more clearly now.  Water, sewer, roads and bridges are the corners that anchor the puzzle in place.  They are the foundation on which the rest of the pieces are built.  To create the full picture, however, we must put some other pieces in place, to not only enhance the quality of life for those who live and work in the area, but also attract others to come and enjoy the region as well.  And we can do it while protecting the environment and enhancing wildlife, two things to which I am unalterably committed, not by words but by deeds.  A number of independent studies have validated this contention, and my personal and Congressional records on the subjects are clear and unmatched.

            "Each of the pieces I have mentioned are projects I am actively supporting and in some instances have already secured funds to help bring to fruition.  Of course they are by no means the only cylinders needed to propel the economic engine we are trying to help create.  But I am driven by my desire to see this region - where I was born and have spent my entire 64 years, that is rich in assets and traditions - rise above the years of neglect and notice to realize its great potential. 

            "I see this challenge as a puzzle, and I draw my strength from days like today when I see an integral piece fall into place.  It is my pleasure to be with you here today as we begin to see the dreams and hard work of so many people being realized.  All of you hold special places in my heart, and I thank you for sharing your time and vision to make this day a reality."


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