Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at places and events of interest in Bulloch County history.
Part 2: In 1968, the Georgia Southern Planning and Development Commission was formed, with H.C. Hearn Jr. as its chairman. One year later, Rep. Jones Lane of Bulloch County pushed through House Bill No. 791, creating the Groveland Lake Development Authority.
After years of disputes, Dr. Robert Hanie of the Georgia Natural Areas Council asked Gov. Jimmy Carter to intervene in the matter. He proposed that Carter designate the Canoochie River a “Scenic Stream” which would afford it a great deal of protection from further development.
The more the public learned, the madder they got. The April 1971 Evans County Grand Jury decried the loss of tax revenue, the destruction of historic sites, the loss of natural habitat for the abundant wildlife in the area, and the cost of relocating numerous roads and bridges.
The Canoochie River Valley Association was formally organized in May of 1971. President Kenneth Durrence announced that the DeLoach Baptist Church and Cemetery would be lost forever if the project went forward.
Moreover, the dam and spillway alone were to cost $16 million, and the lake would flood some 19,700 acres of Bryan, Bulloch, Candler and Evans counties. Lake Groveland would cover 842 square miles, have 142 miles of shoreline, 70 percent along the Canoochie River and the remaining 30 percent along Lotts Creek.
A pro-development group, the Citizens for Groveland Lake Corporation, was formed in February 1972. Durrence was quoted as saying, “I have never seen anything split the people in the county like this project has.” Both sides started a letter- writing campaign.
The Groveland Development Authority received 479 letters against the project, and 164 letters in favor. An Atlanta Constitution Journal article (May 28, 1972) entitled “The Hidden Truth About Groveland” revealed a secret study done by Hammer, Greene, Siler and Associates for the Groveland Authority.
In Appendix C of the article, entitled “Finances and Development Alternatives,” it stated the GL would lose over $30 million by 1995. The report proposed paying landowners “raw land prices” and selling that land to developers at “post-construction prices.”
Locals were outraged. Landowner Bruton Collins said plainly, “I’m the fifth generation of my family to own this property…(the loss of my land)…will destroy the rest of my life.” Lester Howard said, “I ain’t been here but 30 years, and now they want us to move out. I is ‘wo’ out, and (I just) ain’t able to go.”
Bulloch’s Groveland representative stated “I’ve been in real estate in Bulloch County for all of my life…(and) you are kidding yourselves if you think you can buy at this price (which was set at $250 per acre),” and then resigned from the GLDA.
The Bulloch County Grand Jury of January 1973 came out publicly opposed to the project. Then state Rep. Jones Lane of Statesboro, whose bill created the Groveland Authority, came out against it, ensuring the project was now dead.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.