Wofford Hosts Symposium on Small Dams

(Based on Story by Gary Glancy in Spartanburg Herald - Journal Online)

Wofford has hosted "The Dam Symposium: Small-Scale Dams & Hydro from Three Perspectives" as part of the Santee Cooper Lecture Series on Sustainability & Energy.

“The Dam Symposium” began with a public discussion at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 16, 2010,  in Leonard Auditorium on the Wofford campus. It continued at 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 17 with a tour of the Glendale site and dam, followed by an informal discussion at the Goodall Environmental Studies Center, next to the Glendale post office.

Last fall, Wofford opened its Goodall Environmental Studies Center in Glendale, which the college developed through a $1.2 million renovation of the old mill office donated to the college by previous owner Glyn Morris, as well as three acres of surrounding property along the river. During the Symposium, three speakers led a public discussion of the role of small-scale hydro in our energy future.

"Since we received the Santee Cooper grant for our Sustainability & Energy series, I've always had the idea of doing (one) event a year where we would take an issue in sustainability and energy and explore it from different perspectives," said John Lane, a Wofford English professor and director of the Goodall Center. "So it made sense to make the first one small dams, because there are bunches of them in Spartanburg County and we happen to own one. So I thought, why not bring in a scientist, an activist and a writer who writes about such issues, and have them present their perspectives and then open the floor for questions."

Lane said that while the potential for the type of hydroelectric power generated from the Glendale site in the 19th century no longer feasibly exists, the college is considering a small alternative hydro on the dam as a demonstration project for Wofford students, local schools and visiting groups to learn about local history. One Wofford student is already working on interpretive signs for the Palmetto Conservation Foundation walking trail on the grounds, including one that explains past and possible future uses of the dam.

The three speakers for the symposium were John Seebach, chair of the Hydropower Reform Coalition who has spent recent years heavily involved in dam removal projects, Lane said; Ginger Strand, a New York City-based author whose book, "inventing Niagara," traces the course of natural wonder in America and illuminates what the falls tell us about our history, environment and ourselves; and Dave Hargett, principal and senior consultant with the Greer-based environmental consultancy HRI.

"What we're trying to do is open the thing wide open for talking about our dam and what its future will be," Lane said. "We still have a lot more education and study to do, but we take our responsibility as dam owners very seriously."

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