Power to the People: The History of the Land

Power to the People: The History of the Land

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - "A farm being in a family for generations is something that of course in my area is sacred," said State Representative Jeff Johnson of Horry County. He understands the frustrations local farmers may have with Santee Cooper's plan to put a 21-mile-long transmission line through the heart of Horry County's farm land.

"My parents preserved this for us," said Carolyn Gobbel, one of the landowners. "I would like to preserve it for our children."

Martha Ann Johnson feels the same way, saying, "from my earliest remembrances this has been a part of my family, and it's not just something we've owned, I've worked this land."

"This is our life," she said. "When I was a little girl this entire field, that field and this field was all woods, over 200 acres of trees, beautiful, huge pine trees. My daddy dug all these ditches that now have trees on them but they were just big piles of dirt. I can remember as a child playing on those dirt, when I was real little he'd be farming with a mule."

Her fondness goes beyond childhood memories. She helped her father put in the work to make the land what it is today.

"My husband would say you can't drive a straight row can you," she said. "I would pick a tree and just keep my eye on that tree or that bush or something and head straight for that and I finally learned to level.

"A farmer's value for his property is paramount to a farmer because that is how he makes his living, or she makes her living," said Rep. Johnson.

"There's not an inch on this farm that I have not been on that I have not lived on," said Gobbel. "There's not an inch on this farm that my family has not lived on, been on, worked on. This is your life's blood. This is who you are."

"Some people like to play golf, we like to look at open spaces and land," said Martha Ann Johnson, "it's just something we love. I guess they would have to think of what means the most to them, whatever it is. There's just something peaceful about it. People like to go to the ocean and just see the ocean and it's peaceful and quiet. There's something about water that's peaceful and quiet, but there's also something about trees and just green fields that brings you a peace."

Santee Cooper said in a statement it doesn't pick and choose who will be impacted by any project and it does work to avoid significant sites.

"These route options are blindly selected to be equitable and fair… they are further studied to determine whether anything we try to avoid exists along the routes. This evaluation stage includes a search of properties designated as historic sites by the State Historic Preservation Office or the National Register."

WMBF News reached out to the preservation office and found out even having a registered site wouldn't stop construction. By federal law, Santee Cooper must consider the impact it may have, and it may alter its path.

There is a group of landowners that believes getting some kind of historical designation may stop or slow the work, but the office says it's a very formalized process that can take more than a year to finish and still doesn't guarantee anything on Santee Cooper's end.

Santee Cooper says, "The Marion to Red Bluff line is necessary because of the projected increase in electricity demand caused by a growing population in Horry County. Delaying this line jeopardizes the reliability of electricity, increases the odds of brownouts or worse, and likely increases customers' costs."

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