In St. Stephen, SC, the Charleston District finished construction of the Cooper River Rediversion Project and St. Stephen Dam and Powerhouse in 1985 in order to reduce flows into the Cooper River and thereby reduce the sedimentation rates in Charleston Harbor. This rediversion of the water flow back to the Santee River saves the taxpayers $14-18 million in annual dredging costs in Charleston Harbor while the energy created at the powerhouse is enough to provide for about 40,000 houses in the Santee Cooper power grid.
Because the dam blocks fish from being able to pass up the river, the Charleston District constructed a fish lift that, at regular intervals, coaxes fish into the lift, floods with water and prompts them to exit out of the lift by a slowly rising basket. As they exit the lift, the fish swim by a series of viewing windows where they can be identified and counted by on-site South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) personnel. This allows them to collect data on the hundreds of thousands of fish, such as blueback herring and American shad, that are migrating each year.
Also on the 2,493 acres of project grounds is another unique facility that showcases the Charleston District’s partnership with SCDNR. This facility, called the Jack D. Bayless Hatchery, is an on-site fish hatchery where biologists tend to anadromous fish; fish that spend most of their lives in saltwater, but return to freshwater and streams to spawn.
Here, many fish are collected and spawned. Fish hatcheries play a vital role in the management of our state’s fishery resources. SCDNR’s goal is to reproduce various species of fish in amounts required to meet the recommendation of their biological staff. The Bayless Hatchery was originally constructed for producing striped bass and their hybrids for public water stocking.
Within the facility are 54 production ponds that each serve as a different part of the reproduction process. Each female fish produces up to three million eggs which are fertilized. These eggs are hatched fairly quickly and moved to a new pond where they begin to grow while being nourished by a self-sustaining yolk material. Once the fish are a few days old, they are moved to another pond to continue the maturation process and begin to feed on zooplankton. After just a few weeks into the process, the fish are released into the river. Years later, these same fish will hopefully return to the area to spawn.
On April 5th, the Charleston District hosted the Federal Executives Association (FEA) for their monthly meeting, but this time hosted the meeting inside the powerhouse. FEA members were thrilled to have the chance to view the fish passing by the viewing windows. SCDNR staff also did a great job explaining and giving a tour of the hatchery and showed the FEA members many things they were not expecting to see, including a few ducks going through the lift.
The Charleston District is committed to managing all natural resources and lands in an environmentally sound manner, which makes for a perfect partnership with SCDNR. The powerhouse personnel enjoy working alongside SCDNR staff every day on the grounds of the project and look forward to continuing this partnership for decades to come.