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Aiken County set to gain state park

Aiken County stands to gain a state park just outside of North Augusta thanks to the legal settlement reached this summer between Dominion Energy and the South Carolina Department of Revenue. It has been 15 years since South Carolina last opened a state park.

The 190 acres at Misty Lake off Ascauga Lake Road in Aiken County had been used as a recreational retreat for Dominion employees and their guests and boasts a 6,200-square-foot clubhouse. The site is one of three properties that are expected to come into the state park service over the next year, the others being Pine Island Club on Lake Murray near Columbia and the Ramsey Grove plantation in Georgetown County.

Plans for an additional land offer from Dominion, the 94-acre Bundrick Island, also on Lake Murray, have not yet been finalized.

Paul McCormack, director of the South Carolina Park Service, called the land transfers a “hopeful case” and said the final approval process would take place next week, with the formal deed transfer from Dominion occurring sometime next year.

The property at Misty Lake, valued at $2.48 million, would require little work following the transfer before it would be ready for public use. McCormack said that Dominion had maintained the property, including its infrastructure, despite not having used the clubhouse since the pandemic began.

There are no hiking trails at the site currently, but the land is associated with another site that McCormack said was suitable for a longer-term campground.

The state had most recently opened a new park in 2006 when the 7,000-acre H. Cooper Black recreation area in northeastern South Carolina was transferred to the park service from the state Forestry Commission.

Separate from the deal with Dominion, McCormack said the park service is also working with the state Department of Natural Resources to turn a site at Charleston’s Fort Johnson into a park.

“It’s an incredibly exciting time for the Park Service, to be growing more parks than we’ve done in a very long time — in my 26-year career we’ve only added a handful of parks in that entire span, so to potentially (add) four or five in a year is pretty exciting.”

The land deal with Dominion totals some 2,900 acres, and is part of the larger $165 million settlement arrived at in June between Dominion and the state’s revenue department. The settlement resolved the question of how much Dominion owed in taxes tied to the abandoned V.C. Summer nuclear plant expansion project in Jenkinsville.

The V.C. Summer project had begun under South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. in 2008 and ended abruptly in July 2017. Dominion bought out SCE&G two years later, in 2019, and took on its liabilities, including the unpaid taxes owed on parts and materials purchased for the V.C. Summer project, reported the Post and Courier earlier this month.

That project had involved a deal between SCE&G and the state that the utility would not have to pay the state sales tax on nuclear materials purchased for the project, and instead would have most of those taxes forgiven when the new reactors went online, an event that never transpired.

“Because of both parties’ willingness to achieve a reasonable compromise, we can now get much closer to [a] final resolution to this issue,” said Dominion’s Rhonda O’Banion, in a statement to the Aiken Standard on Monday. “We are hopeful that the property transactions that are part of the settlement will receive all necessary approvals so the state can acquire the property, and we can move forward in the best interest of our customers and the communities we serve.”

 

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