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New water line threatens Johns Island rural ambience

Tom Wise who covers Johns Island

Concerned Johns Island residents sincerely appreciate the Editorial in the Post and Courier of July 26, 2004 regarding the proposed 30-inch waterline on Johns Island. The preservation of our rural way of life depends on the dissemination of the facts, and we applaud the effort on our behalf.

To better understand the controversy over the Johns Island waterline, I have done a bit of research on this issue, and I'd like to share with your readers some of the information that I have learned.

A majority of the people I have talked to think that the waterline issue is mainly about "to build or not to build". The real issue is the size of the proposed water line. The judge's ruling to grant permission to St. John's Water Co. to build the waterline is being appealed because opponents believe that a 30-inch waterline is too big for Johns Island. St. John's own predictions indicate that the 30-inch line will provide almost three million gallons of water per day more than Johns Island will need after all the development planned for Johns Island in the Comprehensive Plan is built. Three million gallons per day is more than Johns Island presently consumes.

By reading public documents, I have learned that St. John's own analysis indicates that once the 30-inch waterline is built, there will be enough water on Johns Island to serve almost 20,000 homes. This represents a population of approximately 49,000 people. Mount Pleasant currently has a population of 47,000 people. A 30-inch waterline will provide enough water for a population larger than the entire population of Mount Pleasant!

Second, I learned that St. John's plans to serve Wadmalaw Island. St. John's predicts that it will have customers on Wadmalaw Island by 2015. A 30-inch waterline will provide extra capacity, threatening not only rural places on Johns Island but also Wadmalaw Island. It is my understanding that the majority of Wadmalaw residents don't want public water for this reason.

Yet, this issue is not cut and dry. Despite the fact that a 30-inch waterline would provide too much water, Johns Island does face a water deficit during certain times of the year. Independent engineers working with the Coastal Conservation League have determined that a smaller waterline could indeed provide enough water for residential use and fire protection to meet the current and future needs of Johns Island as it grows according to the Charleston County Comprehensive Plan. St. John's Water Co. has publicly rejected that assertion.

The people of Johns Island have been struggling to keep our rural character. At this point, we are barely staying ahead of the developers. Most recently, the County sucked up 2,500 more acres into the suburban area. We are tired of decisions about our quality of life and community being made for us behind closed doors.

We want a chance to vote on the waterline. The goal of the petition currently being circulated around Johns Island is to ask St. John's Water Company to have a meeting where members will vote on whether or not to continue with the project. The petition is not a request that the company abandon the project. Rather it is another tool to be used to insure that the democratic process is applied to Johns Island.

Johns Island residents sincerely appreciate your concern.