Hanks heads off of marine commission

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comOctober 8, 2013 

— He has given a face and a voice to Lake Wylie interests for at least seven years. Now Smith “Smitty” Hanks will look for a new role.

This month Hanks rotates off the Lake Wylie Marine Commission after completing his second term representing Gaston County. Commissioners aren’t allowed more than two consecutive terms.

“I hit my limit,” he said. “I’m off for a little while, at least.”

Hanks served for three years as the group’s chairman. He’s also represented the commission at a number of functions and served with groups like the Catawba-Wateree River Basin Advisory Commission. He served as the planning chairman for Saturday’s Riversweep.

Hanks sees major accomplishments in his time with the group as marking and maintaining no-wake zones under bridges on the lake, partnering with Duke Energy to manage invasive weeds and opening a lakefront law enforcement center in York County — although he credits predecessors with the heavy lifting for the years-long project.

“Maybe the biggest thing is just the camaraderie on the commission,” Hanks said. “You’ve got appointed people from three counties who are coming together and making decisions not for the benefit of the counties, but for the benefit of the lake.”

The other expiring term is for Commissioner Ed Hull, who represents York County. Hull filled an unexpired term two years ago and would like to continue.

“I’ve enjoyed doing it,” Hull said. “The marine commission does a lot of good around the lake. It’s a good process for me.”

As of last week, Hull was still waiting to hear from York County whether he will be reappointed. He was recently named secretary and treasurer of the commission. The York County Council, which makes the decision, met after press time Monday, but didn’t list a decision on its agenda.

Gaston County confirmed Neil Brennan as its appointment to replace Hanks late last month. Hanks and others say Brennan, a retired naval officer, will bring an impressive presence to the group.

Joe Stowe, executive director, also was a two-term Gaston County representative whose time overlapped with that of Hanks. Stowe credits Hanks with earning a respected voice not only on the commission, but with the bi-state and other groups as well.

“He really cares about the lake, and he’s willing to help,” Stowe said.

As Hanks leaves, he isn’t taking all the work with him. Last week commissioners were swamped with final Riversweep planning, but there are several issues that will demand attention moving forward.

Curbing growth of invasive weeds, many of which came from flooding upstream in recent months, is a main concern.

“It’s an ongoing project,” Hull said. “We can’t turn our back on that.”

The biggest challenge is one common to many lakes, Hanks said.

“The biggest challenge for Lake Wylie and for all lakes is sedimentation,” he said. “As soon as you dam up water, you begin to collect sediment. There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s just the way it is.”

Hanks said the group is will have to take a hard look at the two options for the problem of sediment — keeping it from the water or dredging it out. Either decision, he said, is difficult.

“It we want to have a lake, it’s one that we’re going to have to make.”

Commissioners say they will continue leaning on Hanks. He’ll likely continue representing the group with the bi-state advisory commission, at least for a while.

“Smitty’s been a vital member,” Hull said. “Smitty will continue to be a valuable asset.”

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