American Rivers Appeals State Water Permit for Catawba-Wateree Dams
Group calls for healthy river protectionsJune 10th, 2009
Gerrit Jöbsis, American Rivers, 803-771-7114
Columbia, SC — American Rivers and the Coastal Conservation League said today that South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) isn’t doing enough to protect the health of the Catawba and Wateree rivers at five dams operated by Duke Energy. The groups are challenging the water quality permit issued by DHEC for the five dams. 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 Board will consider the conservation groups’ request for board review at its June 11th meeting in Columbia. The matter will go to the state Administrative Law Court if the Board elects not to grant the request.
The DHEC water quality permit appears to be in conflict with actions by South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster who 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 known to occur 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 well being 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.”