Board Denies Proposed Relicensing of Duke Energy’s Dams on the Catawba-Wateree River
The S.C. Board of Health and Environmental Control today denied Duke Energy LLC’s requested certification for decreased water flows into South Carolina from hydroelectric plants on the Catawba-Wateree River overriding the previous proposed approval by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control for the reasons raised by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the S.C. Coastal Conservation League and American Rivers.
The groups challenged DHEC’s proposed approval of excessively low water flows into South Carolina from Duke Energy’s hydroelectric plants in the heavily dammed Catawba-Wateree River because the dams would have released water in flows that were routinely too low to sustain the state’s aquatic habitat and threatened efforts to protect the federally-endangered shortnose sturgeon native to the Catawba-Wateree River.
In its proposal, Duke Energy offered land conservation and money in exchange for approval of the low and variable water flows. SELC attorneys argued that such out-of-kind mitigation would not have replaced the river flow being lost and could not compensate for the violations of water quality standards and adverse impacts to South Carolina aquatic life and recreation caused by the low water flows.
In June 2009, DHEC gave notice of its intent to certify under section 401 of the Clean Water Act that Duke’s proposed operation of five dams along the river in South Carolina would not violate the state’s water quality standards despite concerns.
If allowed, the proposed DHEC certification would have conflicted with actions by South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster who also testified at today’s hearing. McMaster petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to equitably allocate water in the Catawba River between North Carolina and South Carolina.
The Southern Environmental Law Center represented the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and American Rivers in this challenge to DHEC’s proposed water quality certification before the board.
Note to editors: Photograph and illustrations of shortnose sturgeon are available at http://digitalrepository.fws.gov/index.php
Southern Environmental Law Center The Southern Environmental Law Center is the only regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of 40 legal experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. WEB: www.SouthernEnvironment.org FACEBOOK: http://www.fanofselc.org TWITTER: http://www.twitter.com/selc_org