Pine Island expected to be state park in deal that transfers former SCE&G land to SC

·4 min read
Pine Island at Lake Murray has long been an exclusive playground for power company employees. It is slated to go public.

Pine Island, the exclusive Lake Murray club for power company employees and executives, will be opened to the public as part of an agreement transferring nearly 3,000 acres of forested property and recreation areas from Dominion Energy to the state of South Carolina.

The fate of the 27-acre island has been a point of conversation in the Columbia area since Dominion Energy acquired local power company SCE&G after a 2017 construction fiasco that led to SCE&G’s demise.

Pine Island contains a swimming pool, multiple boat slips, a beach and a 9,000-square foot conference center on a scenic section of Lake Murray, the expansive reservoir near Columbia.

The Pine Island property, accessible by car, had for years been available only to SCE&G employees and their guests, and was the venue for gatherings and events, such as weddings.

Now, Pine Island and three other properties are expected to become state parks or nature preserves open for public use. Pine Island is valued at $9.5 million and, if not transferred to the state, could have been sold as a prime location for a private resort.

Bundrick Island, a 94-acre island also at Lake Murray, would be transferred to the state, as will Ramsey Grove plantation along the Black River in Georgetown County and Misty Lake at North Augusta.

Ramsey Grove, once a hunting retreat for power company executives, is the largest of the properties, at about 2,600 acres, according to the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

It may become part of a state park already being developed on the Black River near Georgetown, PRT spokeswoman Samantha Queen said. The property is valued at $28 million. It contains a clubhouse, conference center and hunting facilities, the Joint Bond Review Committee reported Tuesday.

Bundrick Island, valued at $10.6 million, is the only power company holding that would not be managed by PRT. It would fall under the oversight of the S..C. Department of Natural Resources, Queen said.

The transfer from Dominion to the state is part of a settlement that the Charleston newspaper, The Post and Courier, said was brokered between Dominion and the S.C. Department of Revenue. The deal follows a prolonged dispute over taxes tied to the failed V.C. Summer nuclear construction site, the newspaper reported.

State officials said the property is being donated by Dominion. The transfer will offset Dominion’s tax liabilty by about $50 million, according to the state Joint Bond Review Committee.

The settlement follows what many consider the greatest construction failure in state history. SCE&G and state-owned Santee Cooper abandoned construction of two new nuclear reactors in 2017, saying the project had become too expensive and was no longer necessary.

But the decision enraged lawmakers and the public because the companies had collectively spent about $9 billion after charging ratepayers for the upfront cost of the project that was never done.

Rep. Micah Caskey, one of the leading critics of the construction failure, said the deal to transfer the land sounds promising, although he’d like to know how much the upkeep of the property will cost South Carolina.

“To the extent this helps people come outside and enjoy the great outdoors, all the better,’’ said the Lexington County Republican, who visited Pine Island as a child with his youth baseball team.

Of Pine Island, Caskey said having a lakeside “state park that is so close and accessible from downtown (Columbia) is a great thing.’’

State Rep. Murrell Smith, a Sumter Republican who chairs the House budget committee, called the land transfer “a big win for South Carolina.’’

According to information presented to the state Joint Bond Review Committee, upkeep of the properties would cost the state about $550,000 the first year after the transfer and $250,000 after that.

The deal to transfer the land is not final, but has, so far, garnered little opposition. The Joint Bond Review Committee offered no objections Tuesday when the transfer was presented to the panel.

PRT’s Queen said the parks agency has plenty of work to do after the property moves into state hands.

“Once the deeds are transferred to the state, is when we’ll really start the master-planning process to determine what’s involved to make these areas a state park ,’’ Queen said. “The goal with this is definitely to make them accessible for the public, whether they are stand alone parks or they absorbed by a nearby park, or something along those lines.’’

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