Charleston Ecological Services
Southeast Region

 

 



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Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
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Hydropower

Hydropower is considered a renewable source of energy and widely used throughout the United States and the world. Hydropower projects usually consist of damming a river, creating a reservoir or lake. Water flowing through generators in the dam create electricity. Dams can also be used for water supply and flood control. Although producing hydroelectricity does not emit any greenhouse gas emissions, the damming of rivers can cause detrimental affects to our streams and rivers.

Rivers originate at their headwaters which usually consist of tiny mountain streams that flow downstream getting larger as more tributary streams connect to the main channel. In South Carolina streams and rivers eventually flow from the Piedmont area through the coastal plain and into the ocean. Dams impede this flow of water which creates an upstream impoundment or lake. Dams fragment river systems causing physical and ecological separation of habitats. They impact river systems by altering flows, sediment movements, water chemistry, and aquatic and upland habitat. They affect species life cycles by restricting upstream and downstream movements of migratory species, especially fish. Fish can also be harmed or killed when entrained in turbine intakes or injured by turbine blades.

The East coast contains several species of fish known as diadromous fishes which are fishes that must move between fresh and saltwater environments to fulfill a portion of their life cycle. South Carolina is home to the American shad, hickory shad, blueback herring, striped bass, American eel, Atlantic sturgeon and shortnose sturgeon which is a federally endangered species. Historically, these species were abundant and supported large commercial fisheries but in the last century their populations have significantly declined. Dams have attributed to this decline because they block species from moving up river to their natal spawning grounds. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in concert with other natural resource agencies is working to pass fish beyond dams to their natal spawning grounds in an effort to rebuild and restore their populations.

 

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About FERC
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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or FERC is the governmental agency responsible under the Federal Power Act for licensing non-federal hydropower projects. Hydropower projects are generally licensed for 30 to 50 years. Many of the license terms for dams in South Carolina and in the southeast have or are about to expire and are preparing to apply to the FERC for a new license. Under the Federal Power Act the USFWS has special authorities that enable us to recommend mitigative measures for the continuing adverse impacts from the project, and prescribe fishways at dams. Fishways are facilities that can be built at dams to safely pass fish upstream and downstream of the dam.

 

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Relicensings
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Several utilities in North and South Carolina are undergoing project relicensing and each are within some phase of the process. Projects the Charleston ES Office is actively participating in include the Santee-Cooper Hydropower Project on the Santee and Cooper Rivers, the Augusta Canal Hydropower Project on the Savannah River, the Duke Energy Hydropower Project on the Catawba and Wateree Rivers, the Columbia Hydropower Project on the Broad River, the Saluda Hydropower Project on the Saluda River and the Progress Energy Hydropower Project on the Pee Dee River.

 

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Fisheries Restoration Plan
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The Santee River Basin is located along the South Atlantic coast and consists of the Santee, the Congaree, the Broad, the Saluda, and the Catawba-Wateree sub-basins.  The Santee River Basin once supported large populations of American shad, blueback herring, striped bass, shortnose sturgeon, Atlantic sturgeon and American eel.  In 2008 the USFWS, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Resources, and two hydroelectric utilities, South Carolina Electric and Gas, and Duke Energy Carolinas LLC signed the Santee River Basin Accord.  This 10-year agreement is a restoration plan to rebuild populations of diadromous fish throughout the Santee River Basin, through hatchery-based fry introductions, scientific studies and monitoring, and fish passage facilities.  Fish passage facilities will provide access of diadromous fish to former spawning and maturation habitats that have been blocked by the construction of dams.

 

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Projects
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Licensee Water Body
Augusta Savannah River
Santee-Cooper Santee/Cooper Rivers
Duke Power Catawba/Wateree Rivers
SGE&G Saluda River
Lockhart Company Pacolet River

 

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Program Contact
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Last updated: May 17, 2013