Note: The following is one of a series of articles looking at events in the history of Bulloch County.
The Groveland Lake project first appeared in Senate Doc. No. 51, entitled “Plan for Development of the Land and Water Resources of the Southeast River Basins,” published in the U.S. Study Comm., S.E. River Basins (1963).
Promoted to “exemplify the beneficial effects of major reservoir development in relatively under-developed areas,” it claimed to have a growing local interest in this project.
The money was set aside in the “Public Works Appropriations for Fiscal Year 1970” (June 12, 1969), published in the Hearings, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate, 91st Congress, 1st Session, 1969.
Therefore, the Groveland Lake Development Authority of the State of Georgia was created by the General Assembly in early 1969, in order to promote, construct, develop and manage a Groveland Lake Reservoir.
In 1969, Rep. Jones Lane of Bulloch County pushed through House Bill #791, creating the Groveland Lake Development Authority. Its governing board would have a total of 20 members, one from each county served.
“Groveland Lake” would be a 23,300-acre freshwater lake serving 18 counties. The GLDA stated 500,000 Georgians would be within a 70-mile drive of Groveland Lake.
The GLDA claimed their project would create 8,500 new jobs and bring in $112 million in income. The study projected 65 new industries, 250 new marine slips, 650 new hotel/motel rooms, and 350 new rental cabins.
In August 1969, 18 landowners began complaining about the selling price of $99 per acre for condemned land; and the condemnation of substantial amounts of land beyond the lake’s ‘highwater’ mark.
A resistance was formed at the Evans County Courthouse on Feb. 5, 1971. Archie Hendrix’s group of farmers claimed the GLDA would destroy 130 homes, five historic churches and seven pioneer cemeteries.
Farmers would lose 15,000 acres in Evans, 7,000 in Bulloch, 1,000 in Candler, and 300 in Bryan. The 1971 Evans County Grand Jury decried the destruction of historic sites and loss of natural habitat for wildlife.
The lake was to flood 19,700 acres of Bryan, Bulloch, Candler and Evans counties. Lake Groveland would cover 842 square miles, and have 142 miles of shoreline: 75% on the Canoochie River; and 30% on Lotts Creek.
President of the Canoochie River Valley Assoc. President Kenneth Durrence stated “I have never seen anything split the people in the county like this project has.”
The GLDA received 479 letters against the project, and 164 letters in favor. The Atlanta Constitution Journal (May 28, 1972) exposed a secret study done by Hammer, Greene, Siler, and Associates for the GLDA.
Appendix C, entitled “Finances and Development Alternatives,” projected GLDA would lose over $30 million by 1995.” It revealed the GLDA paid “raw land prices” and sold to developers at “post-construction prices.”
Landowner Bruton Collins declared five generations of my family owned this property, and stated, “(this) will destroy the rest of my life.” Lester Howard declared, “I is ‘wo’ out, and (I just) ain’t able to go.”
Bulloch’s GLDA representative resigned. The Bulloch County Grand Jury of 1973 opposed the project. After State Rep. Jones Lane of Statesboro, sponsor of the GLDA Bill, came out against it, the project was dead.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history who provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email him at email@example.com.