South Carolina' s Saluda River Deserves Water Quality Enforcement

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Located near Columbia, the Saluda River project in South Carolina includes the 48,000 acre Lake Murray and affects 10 miles of the Saluda River and 50 miles of the downstream Congaree River.

In April 2002, due to serious safety concerns, FERC directed Saluda project owner South Carolina Energy and Gas Company (SCE&G) to construct a new dam immediately downstream of the existing dam. In August 2002, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) issued a water quality certification for the dam rehabilitation project.

The water quality certification for the Saluda includes a site-specific dissolved oxygen standard requiring a daily average of 5 milligrams per liter of water (mg/l), and directs SCE&G to operate as close to the run-of-river mode as possible.

However, beginning in mid-June, the dissolved oxygen standard regularly has been violated with daily averages lower than 5 mg/1. Using U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) gauge data, Coalition member South Carolina Coastal Conservation League documented 38 violations between June 19, 2003, and August 27, 2003. This violation is a direct result of operations that do not approximate run-of-river operations.

The League has filed complaints with FERC asking for enforcement of the conditions established under the certification, and further stating that if the Commission does not initiate a proceeding, these violations are remediable under law.