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FERC staff recommends fish passage planning for 134-MW Santee Cooper

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff recommends that a formal fish passage implementation plan should be developed before fish passage facilities are constructed at the 134-MW Santee Cooper hydroelectric project in South Carolina.

The recommendation, included in a final environmental impact statement released Oct. 26, differs from measures prescribed by NOAA Fisheries. The federal fish agency submitted a mandatory fishway prescription setting specific design criteria for downstream passage/protection measures and requiring their installation without advance downstream passage studies.

FERC staff said the Department of Interior and a final settlement agreement for relicensing proposed downstream passage in steps, rather than assuming the best solution and ordering it built, as NOAA Fisheries prescribes. Lack of downstream passage studies prior to construction could result in a need for significant post-construction modifications to achieve goals, FERC staff said.

NOAA Fisheries' prescriptions also would require installation of a fish lift with trap-and-sort facilities at Santee Dam one to three years sooner than that in the time frame proposed by Interior and the settlement agreement. The agency also would require more extensive upstream passage facilities at Pinopolis lock and dam, targeting sturgeon.

South Carolina Public Service Authority (Santee Cooper) owns and operates the project, which features Santee Dam on the Santee River, Pinopolis Dam on the Cooper River, a diversion canal, Santee Spillway hydroelectric station, and Jefferies hydroelectric station, formerly Pinopolis.

FERC staff increases estimated cost of fish passage measures

For the final EIS, FERC staff reassessed estimated costs for fish passage facilities, to be more consistent with costs identified by Interior and the settlement agreement. It now estimates it could cost $47.6 million to provide all prescribed measures for fish passage facilities and studies for the project.

In a draft EIS issued earlier this year, FERC staff estimated recommended fish passage and protection measures for relicensing of the project (No. 199) would total $32.9 million. (HNN 4/4/07)

In the final EIS, FERC staff concludes relicensing, as proposed with staff modification, would be best adapted to a plan for the use of the Santee and Cooper rivers while protecting and enhancing environmental resources. The commission will take the EIS into account before making a decision to issue a new operating license for the project.

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