Native Americans inhabited the area for thousands of years, and built fish traps beside many villages on the Congaree, Saluda, Broad, and Catawba-Wateree Rivers. In the late 1600’s-1700’s, European colonists used fish traps for huge fisheries in the upper Santee Basin. In the late 1700’s and 1800’s, many mill dams were built for grinding corn, which blocked migrating fish. Larger dams were built for textile mills in the mid- to late-1800’s. In 1942, the Santee River was dammed to provide electricity to rural residents and flood control for the Santee Basin. The resulting flow into the Cooper River and sediment buildup in Charleston Harbor both increased dramatically.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, and the South Carolina Wildlife Commission coordinated with the Corps and the South Carolina Public Service Authority (Santee Cooper) in the late 1940’s-1950’s to support upstream passage of river herring at the Pinopolis Lock, to provide food sources for the landlocked striped bass in Lakes Moultrie and Marion.
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. The project saves taxpayers $14-18 million per year in dredging costs in Charleston Harbor, while benefitting shipping, industrial development, hydropower, and fish and wildlife.
The St. Stephen fish lock was designed specifically for American shad and blueback herring, but striped bass, catfish, and other species also pass through it. Major renovations in 2012 and 2013 will ensure passage of these important species for decades to come.