The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District, in partnership with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, recently hosted the 8th annual Wounded Warriors and Veterans fishing day at the Cooper River Rediversion Dam in St. Stephen.
Canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and held with limited participation with safety measures in 2021, the event returned this year in full force. Sixty individuals participated in this year’s event, which was open to all veterans, even those with disabilities and needing mobility assistance.
“Despite being rescheduled at the last minute due to weather, this year’s event was a great success,” said Jesse Helton, a natural resources program specialist at Charleston District who helps plan the yearly event. “We are looking forward to next year’s event and hope to continue to increase the turn out. Giving our wounded warriors, veterans and active-duty military a chance to have a great day fishing and visiting with each other is what this event is all about.”
The event would not be possible without the assistance of the DNR, who allows the fishing to occur in a protected wildlife area once a year.
“As always, I would like to express our appreciation to the DNR,” said Helton. “Without their support planning the event and working with the participants on the day of the event, we would not be able to make it happen.”
The event was also a chance for DNR to collect age data and health information on some of the fish that were caught. This data will provide important information about the American shad population that will be used to inform fisheries management decisions for the species.
Unlike other districts in USACE, Charleston District does not operate any official recreation sites. However, the property in St. Stephen has been used unofficially for years as a recreation site in South Carolina and has hosted many events.
The Corps proposed the CRRP in the early 1970’s to reduce sedimentation and dredging costs in Charleston Harbor. Construction began in 1978 and was completed in March 1985. This project saves taxpayers $36 million per year in dredging costs in Charleston Harbor, while benefitting shipping, industrial development, hydropower, and fish and wildlife.
Since the dam blocked fish from being able to swim upriver to spawning grounds, a fish lift was built to move the fish to the other side of the dam. Up to 750,000 fish pass through the fish lift per year. The fish lift is operated by SCDNR during the spawning season, which is usually from February 1 through May 15, depending on flows and water temperature.
The annual fishing day is not the only event hosted by USACE and DNR. In the fall, the agencies host an annual dove hunt, which occurs just down the street from the dam and is also held exclusively for veterans.