Santee Cooper Project – SC

State:
SC

Site Type:
Dams, Infrastructure and Utilities, Lakes and Ponds, Electricity

New Deal Agencies:
Public Works Administration (PWA), Work Relief Programs, Public Works Funding, Works Progress Administration (WPA)

Started:
1939

Description

The colossal Santee Cooper Project in South Carolina was enabled by a $31 million grant-loan by the Public Works Administration (PWA), “the most expensive PWA project on the East Coast.” A state law enabling the project was passed years before work was able to begin thanks to court challenges. The dams, lakes, and electricity created by the project have had immense positive long-term impacts on the state.

The project entailed the clearing of 160,000 acres of land using manual labor, mostly utilizing Work Projects Administration (WPA) labor; constructing a dam to impound Lake Marion; constructing a power station and a dam to impound Lake Moultrie; constructing 50 miles of dikes and dams in all; and connecting the lakes via a seven-mile diversion canal.

South Carolina Encyclopedia: “Following a four-year court battle, construction began in 1939. At its peak, the project employed nearly fifteen thousand workers, most of whom came from Depression relief rolls. Living in military-style camps scattered throughout the Santee and Pinopolis basins, the laborers cleared more than 160,000 acres with handsaws and mule-drawn wagons. They hauled dirt and clay to dam sites, built railroads, relocated cemeteries, and aided in the construction of the diversion and tail-race canals and the new power plant. Sightseers from across the state came by the thousands to witness the massive undertaking that became the largest land-clearing project in United States history and created the largest single-lift lock in the world. In 1941 President Roosevelt declared the Santee Cooper a defense project, and one year later the power plant in Pinopolis began generating power. Within two decades it was providing electricity to the majority of the state’s farms as well as industries in surrounding counties. More surprisingly, the new reservoirs, renamed Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, attracted sport fishermen from across the country.”

Source notes

"South Carolina and the New Deal" by J. I. Hayes (pg. 83): https://books.google.com/books?id=PmxW1H_KtVEC

South Carolina Encyclopedia: https://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/santee-cooper/ (accessed Aug. 8, 2023)

Site originally submitted by Evan Kalish on August 7, 2023.

Location Info


SC

Location notes: General location marker for project

Coordinates: 33.39, -80.15

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