Columbia, SC – A hearing will be held tomorrow to address the concerns of American Rivers and the Coastal Conservation League over a recent water quality permit issued by the South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). The groups said last month that DHEC isn’t doing enough to protect the health of the Catawba and Wateree rivers at five dams operated by Duke Energy. The state permit carries mandatory conditions for a new 30-50 year operating license sought by Duke Energy for its Catawba-Wateree Hydroelectric Project. The project consists of 11 dams in North and South Carolina and affects 300 miles of river.
“DHEC hasn’t provided the citizens of South Carolina with reasonable assurance that Duke’s dams will provide necessary water flows for fish and wildlife, and a healthy river.” says Gerrit Jöbsis, regional director for American Rivers. “South Carolina must be assured protection for the clean water and economic benefits that a healthy river provides.”
The DHEC water quality permit appears to be in conflict with actions by South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster, who will be testifying at tomorrow’s hearing. McMaster has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to equitably allocate water in the Catawba River between North Carolina and South Carolina. Under DHEC’s permit, South Carolina would only be assured of approximately 25% of the water flowing from North Carolina.
The state permit also falls short in protecting shortnose sturgeon, a federally endangered fish in the Wateree River. The National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency charged with protecting sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act, recommended minimum water flows released from the Wateree Dam to protect sturgeon spawning to be up to 40% greater than the flows DHEC requires in the state permit. DHEC did not consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service when reviewing Duke’s permit application.
The permit also allows for less flowing water than needed for 32 miles of the Catawba River near Rock Hill if Duke Energy provides a million dollars for future studies and protects lands along a 5.5 mile corridor of the river.
“The Catawba River and its fish and wildlife will be robbed of their future wellbeing if this deal is allowed,” Jöbsis emphasized. “No amount of land or money can make up for the loss of water on which fish depend.”
The SC Board of Health and Environmental Control will hold the hearing on Thursday July 9, 2009 at 10:00 AM in the Board Room (3420), SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, 2600 Bull Street, Columbia, SC 29201.
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.