SC Governor proposes infrastructure spending to help rural areas
GREAT FALLS, SC (WOLO) — What will the Palmetto State do with billions of dollars of American Rescue Act money coming its way?
Thursday in Great Falls in rural Chester County, Governor Henry McMaster proposed a way of spending $500 million of federal funding.
“A lot of times we forget about water and wastewater because it’s underground. Water and wastewater infrastructure is as important to economic development as roads and workforce,” said Todd Glover, director of the Municipal Association of South Carolina.
However, many water and sewer systems in the rural areas of South Carolina are aging and in major need of repair according to the South Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority.
“Water and sewer capacity is a critical factor when a business is deciding where to locate and make a significant investment. This leaves most rural counties with no real opportunity,” said Gov. Henry McMaster.
To help economic growth and the overall quality of life in these rural areas, the governor proposed a $500 million investment in water, sewer and wastewater infrastructure using American Rescue Plan Funds.
“Today’s announcement by the governor stands to be transformational for small towns in all corners of our state. To provide safe drinking water and sanitary sewer, capital improvements are needed,” said Bonnie Ammons, South Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority director.
The investments will not only attract business but also protect drinking water and the quality of waterways in the state as a whole.
“We also know that sewer and wastewater protects our environment in South Carolina,” Glover said. “In a tourism based state, it’s important that we protect our environment.”
In the state, 24 counties in the state are tier 3 or 4, meaning they qualify for the rural infrastructure upgrade. One of those, Chester County. recently announced the addition of Gallo Winery to the area.
“We’re the example of that tier 4 county, the poor rural county. We’ve been able to bring not only Gallo but thanks to the governor’s leadership, GT Tire, and Roseburg,” Sen. Mike Fanning from Great Falls. “We’ve been able to do some amazing things but we need that infrastructure in place to sustain that growth over time.”
Thursday’s announcement was welcomed by lawmakers in the surrounding counties.
“On behalf of rural South Carolina and people who need better sewer and more capacity like we do in Kershaw County desperately, thank you,” said Sen. Penry Gustafson from Camden. “Thank you so much. Let’s get it going. Let’s use every dollar and stretch it to the best of its ability.”
“Simply, such investments will strengthen such communities and put them in a place to succeed,” Ammons said.
Comparing it to consolidating school districts, the governor says the proposal will incentivize large municipal water and sewer systems to connect smaller systems. He says this will result in cheaper, more efficient service.