Bill introduced that would strip lake wardens of law enforcement authority

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A state senator has introduced a bill to reduce the policing of Lake Bowen, Lake Blalock, and Municipal Reservoir #1, all of which are managed by Spartanburg Water. 

For months, residents on the lakes have been complaining that Spartanburg Water has been overzealous in handing out tickets. Spartanburg Water manages the land adjacent to the lakes, known as “the buffer zone.” Some lakeside property owners believe the regulations regarding the buffer are unreasonable. 

Martin Just has lived on Lake Bowen for more than 40 years. He said things have recently become difficult with Spartanburg Water. 

“I myself have had no problems so far, but I know some people which did have some problems… some really, really nasty problems,” Just said. 

Spartanburg Water has cracked down, giving tickets to homeowners for violating regulations involving their docks and vegetation near the water’s edge in the buffer zone.

The utility maintains that the buffer is important because it helps filter pollutants from runoff water that makes its way into Spartanburg County’s drinking water. 

“That’s a bogus thing because the water quality’s fine,” Reese said. “It’s to harass homeowners.”

Earlier this week, Reese filed a bill that would strip the lake’s four wardens of their status as law enforcement officers, which would prevent them writing tickets. 

According to Spartanburg Water, watershed specialists give out permits related to the buffer, and the wardens enforce them. 

A Spartanburg Water spokesperson told 7 News the wardens provide essential services– they’re trained for emergencies and have even saved lives. The wardens received more than 350 calls over the past year for issues such as speeding and loud music, according to Spartanburg Water. 

A spokeserson also said the wardens do important work involving the buffer. 

“It stands to reason that if we wouldn’t have the necessary teeth that it takes to protect that, that it could cause more challenges,” said Spartanburg Water Communications Manager Chad Lawson. 

Reese introduced the bill that gave the wardens law enforcement authority in 2002. He said he did that because the Sheriff’s Office was refusing to help out at the lakes at the time. He told 7 News that circumstances have changed, and he thinks traditional law enforcement should again be called upon to handle issues at the lakes. 

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