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'Grand Groveland' lake development draws opposition
Bulloch History
roger allen
Roger Allen

Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at places and events of interest in Bulloch County history.


Part One

For the first months of the new electric grids operation, the power consumption of an average Bulloch County electric customer amounted to only 16 kilowatts per month, but within six months that amount had almost doubled to an average of 29 kilowatts. 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 #791, creating the Groveland Lake Development Authority. Its governing board included chairman J. Dixie Harn of Pembroke, vice president John Rousakis of Savannah, treasurer Raiford Williams of Statesboro and secretary Elliott Brack of Jesup. The agency was to exist for 99 years.

The Groveland Authority would have a total of 20 members, one from each of the counties it was proposed to serve, as well as one member of the planning and development commission and the commanding general of Hunter Army Air Field and Fort Stewart.

“Groveland Lake,” was first proposed in 1963. It was to be a 23,300-acre freshwater recreational area that would serve 18 counties. The area in question would be spread across of Bryan, Bulloch, Candler and Evans counties. According to its promoters, some 500,000 Georgians would be within a 70-mile drive of Groveland Lake.

When the Groveland Authority economic feasibility study was released, the public was told that the creation and existence of Groveland lake would create some 8,500 new jobs, bring in an estimated $112 million in income, and cause a rise in the population of the area by some 22,000 people by the year 1995.

Furthermore, it projected that there would be 65 new industries, 250 new marine slips, two new golf courses, an equestrian area with at least 60 horse stalls, 650 new hotel and motel lodgings, 350 new rental cabins, 160 new campsites and at least two new beachfronts.

In August 1969, 18 landowners began circulating petitions. Their two greatest complaints were the stated value of the land to be condemned for the project, set at $99 per acre; and the plan to condemn substantial amounts of land beyond the lake’s “highwater” mark, impinging upon current property owner’s plans for their own property.

Nevertheless, in 1971 an official plan was adopted. Local residents met at the Evans County Courthouse on Feb. 5, 1971 and planned their formal resistance to Groveland. A committee was established which included Harvey Anderson of Bulloch County, Wilfred Parrish of Candler County, and B. DeLoach, Archie Hendrix, and Jimmy Sands of Evans County.

Hendrix’s group of farmers had some startling claims: The building of the dam and the subsequent filling of the lake would destroy at least 130 homes. Furthermore, also destroyed would be five historic churches and seven pioneer cemeteries. In addition, farmers would lose the use of 15,000 acres in Evans, 7,000 acres in Bulloch, 1,000 acres in Candler and 300 acres in Bryan.

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at rwasr1953@gmail.com.

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