Columbia, SC: Water quality, public safety, fish and wildlife, and recreation on the Saluda and Congaree rivers will get a major boost thanks to a settlement agreement American Rivers negotiated with the South Carolina Electric and Gas Company (SCE&G) for the Saluda Hydroelectric Project, also known as the Lake Murray Dam. American Rivers and several other partners will sign the agreement at a ceremony tomorrow.
“Our four years of hard work helping to craft this agreement have paid off. The agreement will breathe new life into the Saluda and Congaree Rivers,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. “This agreement is among the best outcomes we have seen for a hydropower project in the Southeast, and it is a real victory for healthy rivers and for local communities.”
The pact is one of the final steps toward obtaining a federal operating license for SCE&G’s Saluda Hydroelectric Project. Over 1.5 miles long and 200 feet high, it was the world’s largest earthen fill dam at the time of its completion in 1929. The dam controls virtually all flow to 10 miles of the lower Saluda River through the heart of the Midlands. The Saluda Dam also controls one-third of the flow in the Congaree River, water that helps nourish extensive floodplain forests in Congaree National Park. On its upstream side, the Saluda Dam creates Lake Murray, a 48,000 acre impoundment located in Richland, Lexington, Saluda, and Newberry counties. Some 30,000 Midlands residents live around the lake. The river supports a trout fishery and is known regionally for its challenging whitewater. The lower Saluda was South Carolina’s first State Scenic River.
Highlights of the hydropower agreement include:
- More natural river flows: SCE&G will operate the dam to support natural, seasonal flows that benefit the health of the river and its web of life.
- Protection and restoration measures for striped bass and other fish, as well as rare freshwater mussels, rocky shoal spider lilies, and shortnose sturgeon.
- Special water releases 51 days per year to support whitewater paddling and wade fishing, and up to 11 days per year to support whitewater rescue training for the Columbia Fire Department and other entities.
- An improved warning system to alert the public of pending hydroelectric generation and posting of the planned generation schedule on the web.
- More public recreation areas downstream of the dam and at Lake Murray.
- A commitment to keep Lake Murray full for a longer period of time which benefits lake recreation and allows SCE&G to release more water downstream.
“The measures we secured in this agreement are coming in the nick of time,” said Wodder. “As the Southeast U.S. experiences increased temperatures, drought, and flooding, communities will need more than ever the clean water and flood protection benefits that healthy rivers provide. By helping nature, we’re actually helping ourselves.”
“We applaud South Carolina Electric and Gas Company for its stewardship of the Saluda and Congaree rivers now, and for the duration of the new operating license.”
The Southeast regional office of American Rivers has been working on a number of fronts to protect and restore the Saluda and Congaree rivers for the people of South Carolina. In addition to negotiating the landmark hydropower agreement, American Rivers named an upstream section of the Saluda River one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers for 2009 because of the threat of sewage pollution, an issue unrelated to dam operations. American Rivers also initiated the Congaree River Blue Trail, the first water trail in South Carolina to be designated a National Recreation Trail.
For more information about the Saluda Hydro Project visit www.hydroreform.org/projects/saluda-p-516.
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.