Landmark Hydro Agreement Will Boost Safety and Health of Saluda and Congaree Rivers

For Immediate Release

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Gerrit Jöbsis, American Rivers, 803-771-7114
Caitlin Jennings, American Rivers, 202-243-7023

Landmark Hydro Agreement Will Boost Safety and Health of Saluda and Congaree Rivers

American Rivers signs settlement agreement for Saluda Hydroelectric Project

COLUMBIA, S.C. - 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.

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

For more information about the Saluda Hydro Project visit www.hydroreform.org/projects/saluda-p-516.

View images of the Saluda on our Flickr site

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American Rivers is the only national organization standing up for healthy rivers so our communities can thrive. Through national advocacy, innovative solutions and our growing network of strategic partners, we protect and promote our rivers as valuable assets that are vital to our health, safety and quality of life.

Founded in 1973, American Rivers has more than 65,000 members and supporters nationwide, with offices in Washington, DC and the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, California and Northwest regions.

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