30 Years of Conservation
Saluda River Chapter TU: Conservation Summary - 1982-2012
Submitted to the Saluda River Chapter Board of Directors, March, 2012
1) NPDES permits (SC DHEC)
2) SSOs / 208 Wastewater Planning (SC DHEC / CMRPC - ie, the 'COG' (Council of Governments))
3) Non-point source pollution (Richland and Lexington Counties)
4) Lower Saluda Scenic River Advisory Council (SCDNR - Rivers Programs) & River Access
5) Fisheries Management and projects/studies (US Forest Service / SC DNR - Fisheries & Water Resources)
6) SCE&G's Lake Murray Hydro Federal Relicensing
7) Networking with SC conservation groups (SC Wildlife Federation/ Camo Coalition/ Conservation Voters of SC - Common Conservation Agenda/ Congaree Riverkeeper/ American Rivers/ SC Coastal Conservation League)
8) Role of Communications
Notes on each Area:
1) NPDES permits (SC DHEC)
NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits are required for each of the underwater pipes in the lower Saluda and also its tributaries, 12 Mile Creek and 14 Mile Creek that drain much of Lexington County. These permits authorize the level of treatment of sewer and the volume of the treated wastewater discharges. Locations of these are available on the SC DHEC website. There should be no new permit requests for discharges of wastewater submitted to DHEC in the coming years as DHEC has asked for existing dischargers to consolidate their output to regional lines now being built (Lexington Joint Water and Sewer Authority) that would take the wastewater to either Cayce or Columbia sewer plants. However, the chapter will have to deal with renewals for existing ones as several of those companies do not want to give up a profitable business. Those renewals will require chapter positions and testimonies at DHEC hearings. Also, the chapter must be vigilant as increased flows from Lake Murray per the FERC settlement agreement could possibly mean requests for increased discharge limits.
The Congaree Riverkeeper should be supported as this is a major area of involvement for that group, and they are likely to be key allies and leaders as permits are opened for public comment. For example, this group, led by Board Director, Mullen Taylor, negotiated written requirements with dates in the purchase agreement approval from SC DHEC when Alpine Utilities was bought by Ni-America last year. Note, this is the wastewater plant less than a half mile above I26 (and the Rivers Edge island stretch).
2) SSOs/ 208 Wastewater Planning (SC DHEC / CMRPC - Central Midlands Regional Planning Council - ie, the 'COG' – Council of Governments)
This is a key area of concern as SSOs (Sanitary Sewer Overflows) have been a problem with serious public health issues in the past few years both in the midlands and all over the state (aging infrastructure and 'Murphy's Law' at play as pumps and sewer lines age and fail or pipes become blocked up). Fortunately we have a much broader midlands constituency from the success of the River Greenways in the last decade in orienting citizens to the values of our midlands rivers. SC DHEC which is responsible for water quality violations is currently sending email alerts whenever SSOs happen, and someone from the Saluda River Chapter should sign up for alerts on the lower Saluda and relay them via the chapter website or other communications tools.
The City of Columbia is making major improvements to their wastewater system per an EPA edict, and others are too, like the NI America group that bought the Alpine Utilities plant just upstream from I26. But, many of the existing dischargers are fighting DHEC on coming offline and piping their wastewater to a regional line to go to the City of Cayce (or to the City of Columbia as both jockey for the business). There will be fights played out at Central Midlands for 208 wastewater plan amendments which they are responsible for per section 208 of the Federal Clean Water Act). Those meetings will probably be as tense as the ones in the early 2000s when Carolina Water Service brought in legal counsel to aggressively and successfully lobby for continuation of service. This major issue will require chapter position statements and testimonies at COG hearings as 208 planning determines who can pump what level of wastewater where. The Congaree Riverkeeper should be supported as this is a major area of involvement for that group and they are likely to be key allies and leaders as issues arise.
3) Non-point source pollution (Richland and Lexington Counties)
Both counties have passed riparian buffer protection ordinances. However, vigilance is needed as was the case on the Saluda in the past two years after heavy rainfalls. The lower Saluda River ran a bright orange color after rains, and the Lower Saluda Advisory Council chaired by Bill Marshall, SCDNR Rivers Programs, brought in for questioning at my request the Lexington County staff responsible for enforcing their buffer laws (note, the buffer laws were also requested by the Advisory Council before they were adopted and county staff hired). The focus was on the new high school off Corley Mill Road which was put in a very expensive construction site for water control with very high development costs for county residents. No proof was found that runoff from that site was the culprit. The explanation from Lexington County was that the silt was an accumulation of runoff after storms from the hundreds of permitted sites. Fortunately development has slowed down in the county, but will pick back up with the economy. So, continued vigilance is needed, and advocacy will need to be initiated, especially with the Lower Saluda Advisory Council and the Congaree Riverkeeper, and Lexington County which permits and inspects construction projects.
4) Lower Saluda Scenic River Advisory Council (SCDNR - Rivers Programs) & River Access
I have represented TU on the Lower Saluda River Advisory Council since its inception in the early 90s, and a new representative needs to commit to that role in order for the chapter to remain a voting member. This has a been a very effective group with much credibility from its respected DNR staff council chair person, Bill Marshall and the credible "Saluda River Corridor Plan" that I served on that is still a guiding document. The Advisory Council was legislated by the state scenic river act when the lower Saluda received that special designation from the SC legislature. It represents a broad spectrum of citizens, groups, and companies with river interests all trying to work out how to implement the original plan's recommendations and maintain its uniqueness as a state scenic river. As I was quoted in the fall, 2011 SC WILDLIFE magazine article, "Take Me to the River", we were more effective over the years by having our concerns espoused by the Advisory Council, not just by TU. We need to keep TU representation on the council in the future with someone who will be active in addressing issues and working with that group to address them (like we last did with Lexington County on the silt load in the Saluda).
Both Ted Wietecha, a Saluda Hills resident and Saluda River Chapter charter member, and I worked actively for a cleanup and protection of the property on the West Columbia side of the lower Saluda, and found the Lower Saluda Advisory Council to be a key ally. Using the Council as a forum we addressed the concerns about litter, property destruction, illegal firearm use, and other problems that had plagued this unique stretch of the river for years. For example, a wastewater treatment pond below the lower power lines below I26 was abandoned when West Columbia ran sewer lines to the area and we explored the possibility of a county park at that site. There were objections to a park increasing vehicle traffic in a residential area. The property owner ultimately sold it to a home owner who built the elevated house now seen below the lower power lines inside the private property boundaries at the downstream end of the pond.
The developer of Rivers Edge, Cliff Kinder, learned of our advocacy efforts for that stretch through his brothers, David and Alan, who ran Barrons on Harden for many years. He communicated his appreciation for our advocacy to the new homeowners group and we were offered access across their property to the river from parking at the end of Middle Loop Road. At first the only requirement for this privilege was that vehicles displayed TU window decals which resident, Bob Hayden, agreed to monitor for. It became obvious though that many acquired the TU decal often not renewing memberships and not participating or supporting the chapter in any way beyond the dues to national TU. With the chapter’s concern for being very unobtrusive to the neighborhood, we changed the requirement to a chapter ‘parking pass’. We levied a small fee for those with the idea of using the funds to cover the pass costs, to support our advocacy to enhance the river’s water quality and habitat for trout, and also for gifts of appreciation to the neighborhood. Those began with wood duck boxes, bluebird boxes, and cook outs, and continued with periodic trash clean ups.
The usage continued to climb however to more than 60 passes in recent years and a parking policy was formally adopted by the chapter board and posted on the chapter website requiring a level of participation by those with the passes to serve as a minimum on a chapter committee. This was done to help restrict total passes given out each year to prevent parking overflows, and more importantly to ensure that the chapter ‘knows’ those that the passes are given to as courtesy and respect to the homeowners and their property are of utmost importance. Plus, the agreement to release all trout was added in return for the access privilege through the homeowners property. Any further changes to the parking policy should be brought to the chapter board of directors for discussion and approval with the original intention always in mind to be respectful and as unobtrusive as possible…
One of the key issues will be the next phase of the Columbia Greenway to run from the Zoo to I26. As I have noted before, there are plans for policing the problem areas around the Zoo which have led to many areas being restricted to the public. The project will also provide more public river access, including a take out point for floaters above the Mill Race Rapids for safer river exit, and a throw-in site below the I26 bridge at an old dirt boat landing once used by the Columbia Fire Department. The key feature will be a trail that will provide access up the river on the Columbia side which is now closed from the power lines at Mill Race upstream. This trail will finally provide long needed public access to the stretches of river around the islands below I26. Since much of the property upstream from the Zoo is private property, the new section of Greenway and new landings will make the river both more safer and more accessible for the public, and the provision for park rangers or city police as the other greenways have learned is a real necessity for an urban public park. Full details of the project can be learned from the River Alliance, including as a chapter monthly meeting program, and will be a major issue for the Lower Saluda River Advisory Council.
Note, the Congaree Riverkeeper was made an ex-officio member of the Advisory Council at my request in 2011 and will be a key leader on the best planning of this new stretch of Greenway and other access and safety issues with the city of Columbia and the River Alliance.
5) Federal and State Fisheries Management and Projects/Studies
(US Forest Service / SC DNR – Fisheries / NRCS)
Studies funded since 1982:
1985 - USGS (Rod Cherry) Water Temperature and Flow Study ($5250 TU Embrace-A-Stream (EAS) grant)
This study facilitated for the chapter by Dr. Keith Taniguchi, USC Earth Sciences, determined that the lower Saluda River had year round flows and water temperatures suitable for trout. The work by SCE&G in the late 80s and early 90s to stop seepage through the earthen dam and also through the old generators (1930s) however substantially changed the flows, forcing a minimum mandate of 180 cfs from DHEC just to keep the existing dischargers in line with their NPDES permits. So, the study provided an excellent background data base of previous flows in addition to giving the lower Saluda (and the chapter) credibility by proving the lower Saluda a viable trout fishery.
1985-1988 Macro-invertebrate study of the Chattooga River (TU funds and manpower - 10,000+)
This three year study was done in conjunction with the US Forest Service (USFS) and DNRs in SC, NC, and GA along with TU councils in those states. It was funded jointly with those agencies and TU, using both chapter contributions and TU Embrace-A-Stream (EAS) monies. TU also provided volunteer manpower for the twice a year 'bug pickings' at the more than 10 sites at intervals in the 40 mile stretch of river from the NC line to Lake Tugaloo. As SC TU Council Chair, I coordinated this project with Don Eng, SC USFS Supervisor (and Saluda River Chapter charter member!) and the agencies and the two SC TU chapters at the time. It was a galvanizing effort, especially for the Saluda River Chapter, as members rose to the occasion with so many enthusiastic volunteers for the bug pickings despite the long distance. The study based on the bugs found was done by Rocky English of Clemson University and it not only documents the aquatic food base and water quality based on the species; but, also provides a data base of information for comparisons for future impacts (such as the wastewater treatments plants that have since gone on line in the Cashiers, NC area). Also, the project helped to foster two new TU chapters, Rabun Gap and Chattooga River, and also an annual meeting of TU volunteers and resource professionals from the state and federal agencies in the 3 states that became known as the 'Chattooga Coalition'. Still chaired by now retired USFS SE Fisheries Biologist, Monte Seehorn, the Coalition meets each winter to share information and discuss how the Chattooga trout fishery management can be continually improved. The project was filmed by the USFS and the video tape was converted to a dvd by SC DNR and provided to Dan Rankin and the 3 SC TU Chapters in the early 2000s. Reviewing the dvd from time to time is strongly recommended for the chapters because it is a model project that brought together so many different entities from multiple states in a common effort to enhance a nationally significant trout fishery (and federally designated 'Wild and Scenic River').
1988 - USC, School of Public Health (Hank McKellar) Dissolved Oxygen Dynamics Study $6,000 (2,000 each from the Saluda River Chapter, DNR, and DHEC).
This study followed one by McKellar on the oxygen profile of Lake Murray which established his credibility on this issue and proved that the dissolved oxygen levels in the fall months were reaching lethal levels, approaching zero at times. This is the study that eventually turned around DHEC (along with some federal court cases in the 90s) to finally require in the mid 1990s that SCE&G maintain state dissolved oxygen standards after a position that the dam owner did not have to because the D. O. drop was a 'natural phenomena', even though below an 'unnatural' man-built structure. Unfortunately it took over 10 years for the utility to install all the current air vents; and, they are given another 10 years to replace those with more reliable and efficient turbine runners per the FERC approved Settlement Agreement (SA) once their new federal license goes into effect (still pending). That is significant progress, though very drawn out. In the interim before the license goes into effect, we are getting flows similar to the SA guidelines as the utility works out operational issues, and dissolved oxygen is being maintained in the fall with the current air vents which do not work well during high releases. So, high releases in the fall are somewhat of an oxygen 'time bomb' that could potentially wipe out several year classes of trout and other fish depending on the duration.
Partners for Trout
The Saluda River Chapter quickly proved their concern for all trout resources in SC, not just our home water, the lower Saluda. Beginning with the study of the Chattooga in the 1980s, the Chapter responded many times to calls from the SC Council for matching funds from all chapters for upstate habitat improvement projects. Most of these were joint efforts with many entities that banded together under the “Partners for Trout” banner. With technical leadership from SC DNR and NRCS (National Resource Conservation Service – old US Soil Conservation Service) many upstate trout waters were improved, especially those below impoundments changed to bottom draws to prevent thermal (heat) problems lethal to trout in the summer from top draws. Also, the chapter donated $5,000 in addition to funds from the Mountain Bridge Chapter for a joint project to correct the severe and long-standing erosion problems to improve the Middle Saluda River in Jones Gap State Park.
Other conservation efforts with resource agencies:
Fin-clipped trout growth and movement
During the mid 1980s we did an informal study with Gerrit Jobsis when he was a DNR Fisheries Biologist of trout growth in the lower Saluda using fin-clipped trout of the same size stocked at the same time and location. We logged in our catches through the spring and summer, and Gerrit analyzed the over 400 catch data to determine both movement from the stocking location over the year, and also the growth rate which varied from a half inch a month to nearly an inch in some trout. But, he never formally published the study as he felt the amount of data was too little for the number stocked, and the study did not include a full year timeframe (ie, did not factor in the fall mortality in those years). But, it provided a good clue as to the Saluda’s potential…
Jim Bulak, the SCDNR Fisheries Research Director, organized an AFS (American Fisheries Society) water symposium in Columbia in the late 80s. That symposium brought in professionals from all over the country with the lower Saluda River a major topic of discussion. Many of the issues with fisheries and water quality below impoundments were discussed, especially flows and the critical dissolved oxygen levels. The symposium brought national attention to our vision of the lower Saluda as a world class, trophy trout fishery, if managed correctly. Many of the recommendations and solutions offered provided a credible platform for our advocacy that continued on into the FERC relicensing process.
Governor’s Freshwater Wetlands Forum
I served on Governor Campbell's Freshwater Wetlands Forum in the late 80s when it was coordinated by the then SC Water Resources Commission (now a part of DNR). That appointment was a compliment to TU as no other fisheries group was selected and our conservation orientation established since just 1982 was given as the reason for our participation.
We worked closely with the Governor's Riley office to help draft Water Watch manuals and to help pay for the first Field Guides for that program in 1985 (eventually moved to DHEC and then dropped). Mina Harrington as both a Saluda River Board member and also the Sierra Club State Water Quality Director helped to assimilate and finalize the manuals and was a very important advocate for clean water in the lower Saluda. She also, along with Betty Spence, then Director of the SC Wildlife Federation worked with TU and the Palmetto Paddlers to fight against a proposed re-regulation (weir) dam on the Saluda in the early 80s, and against a proposed sewer plant (Loricks's Ferry) located about half way from the dam that would now being pouring out more than 8 million gallons a day into the river. Instead regional lines were proposed and ultimately funded by Lexington Country with a bonded agency to build it and move much of the wastewater down to the Cayce plant on the Congaree. The lines are not completed at this time and further chapter advocacy is needed along with other groups that share our concerns and understand the need to reduce discharges into the lower Saluda.
Lower Saluda River Corridor Plan
I served on the ‘Lower Saluda River Corridor Plan’ task force in the late 80s that created this planning tool with input from citizens, groups, and businesses all with vested interests in the river. This plan along with a major revision termed a ‘Charrette’ done with the River Alliance and a team of urban planners, became the guiding document for the Lower Saluda River Advisory Council as noted above.
And in the mid 1990s DNR (Jobsis) did a Incremental Flow Incremental Methodology (IFIM) study to determine minimum flows needed for the different species in the Saluda based on habitat exposure at the selected transects (cross stream locations). We offered funding for this study, but DNR had the funds needed for it. This was the first and only IFIM done by DNR, with analysis provided by Clemson University. The study results showed that flows of over twice the 180 cfs minimum were needed to prevent de-watering of key areas (like around Oh Brother rapids at the lower power lines below Rivers Edge access). However, the study proved to be ‘informational’ as SCE&G as a private utility was managed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the relicensing process had not yet begun. Drying up riffle areas reduce the insect life (fish food) and also fish habitat, including for spawning and fry needs of fish of all species. Rather than use the DNR study, SCE&G did another IFIM during the relicensing that resulted in the flows in their FERC Settlement Agreement that were actually higher than what the DNR study had recommended (700 cfs during normal rainfall, a 500 target (400 minimum) after two weeks of 'drought (less inflow that outflow in the lake), and over a 1,000 cfs in April to enhance the striper run and spawning, including their thermal refuge runs up the Saluda after spawning in the Congaree).
The chapter worked with DNR on stocking locations over the years, establishing 3 key truck sites - Hopes Ferry, Allied, then Honeywell and now Shaw Industries, and at the entrance to the Quail Hollow Swim Club. The helicopter from SLED was introduced to further distribute the first stockings of trout in December to over a dozen sites selected by Hal. And stockings at the Rivers Edge access road have been made in recent years. The numbers of trout stocked a year has ranged from 20,000 currently to nearly 60,000 in the 90s, and has included some of the 'mitigation' trout (of 12-14") from the Corps provided as part of the agreement when the Russell Dam was built destroying the Hartwell tailrace trout fishery. The growth of those larger trout to over 20 " in 6-8 months by the fall helped DNR to make the decision to bring in larger trout, though in fewer numbers than previously. Also, the months of stockings changed in the 1990s as the severity of the lethal dissolved oxygen levels in the fall became known. It made sense to wait until after the lake 'turned over' each fall, eliminating the layer of anoxic water at the dam intakes, and not stocking past March when the striped bass enter the Congaree and Saluda in large numbers.
Hal Beard as the Fisheries Biologist for the midlands also studied the river substrate and did electro shocking sampling by boat and other studies in the 1990s that were inconclusive as to trout habitat and survival as they were done when we had drought conditions and the minimum flows were very low. He shocked up more warm water fish at that time and the river was not deemed a very good one for trout then as the low flows of as little as 180 cfs and resultant warm temperatures made for poor trout habitat, as did the low levels of dissolved oxygen in the fall months before the air vents were fully installed. This was proof of the change in the flows from elimination of seepage through turbines and the dam itself in the late 1980s and early 1990s that changed the temperature and flow regime as measured in 1985 by the USGS as ideal for trout.
The next proposed study was first suggested during the relicensing by Hal Beard, Regional Fisheries Manager, and Ron Ahle who moved to Fisheries from the now defunct Environmental Programs section. Their suggestion was to study the Saluda trout fishery to determine survival year round (not just in the spring when a SCE&G study was done). With air vents installed for higher dissolved oxygen levels and also higher minimum flows since the last studies in the 1990s, the new study should document the carry-over through the winter and the build up of a multi-year class of trout as have been documented ‘anecdotally’ with angler catches and photos over the past few winters. Ron has been assigned the study and is to start this year, including with trout tagged by TU volunteers this coming fall at the Walhalla Trout Hatchery. The study should be very beneficial in establishing credible science-based proof of the trout carryover annually, and possibly some other important data depending on how Ron structures the study. Bill Clendenin has been leading working out the study details with SC DNR and will need full chapter support as a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) will be required committing the chapter to both manpower and funding levels as agreed on with the agency.
Also, if reproductive trout are ever documented in the Saluda by DNR, the DHEC classification could be upgraded from 'TPGT ' (Trout - Put, Grow and Take) to 'OW' (Outstanding Waters). That will be fought by many entities as it increases wastewater treatment standards and could even change NPDES permits. Chapter position statements and testimonies will be required for any upgrade in the state classification which will first require a definitive study by SC DNR providing scientific proof of a multi-year class of trout, and also proof of reproduction. And if the Saluda were ever to receive an 'OW' classification, then physical habitat would become a major factor in the river's management as was unsuccessfully proposed by Mike Waddell and I during the FERC relicensing meetings based on many successes we cited on the White River in Arkansas, an even larger tailrace.
Relationship with DNR
The SC TU Council is working out ways to better communicate with DNR staff, including holding recent council meetings at DNR fishery facilities, such as the Walhalla Trout Hatchery and the Campbell Fish Hatchery. Continued cooperative efforts are needed, including jointly supported protective regulations which Section 13 of the new Fisheries Laws codification will allow DNR Fisheries to initiate in an expedited legislative process. The new process will still involve legislative approval; but, will require immediate actions by the House and Senate, not allowing tabling of pending legislation in committees as can be done now.
6) SCE&G's Lake Murray Hydro Federal Relicensing
Efforts throughout the relicensing process were well documented in position statements on the previous TU website. Hopefully those can be maintained on the new website, or possibly the new TU “COMMUNITY” site, as they state many of the key principles of TU conservation, and represent over 25 years of chapter advocacy. In particular the Settlement Agreement is documented and needs to be understood and needs continued vigilance to ensure that its provisions are followed. Mike Waddell joined in the process to bring his geologist's expertise to the IFIM and to join me as a TU 'tag-team' in trying to attend the many, many stakeholder meetings, often several a week for several years! Don Eng provided position reviews and also key testimony on our safety concerns. He described his personal ordeal when rising waters swept him downstream several hundred yards into tree branches and eventual safety thanks to some help from kayakers. We insisted on ramping of high releases to provide more time for river exits, but that technique was not incorporated into the Settlement Agreement - one of several reasons we did not sign the agreement as is also documented on the chapter website.
Also, during the relicensing TU opposed the floating barrier placed across the Saluda River at the old railroad trestle approximately .4 mile below the Lake Murray Dam. Done in the name of Homeland Security, that move unnecessarily 'stole' over a third of a mile of public water. The DNR Director was furious and sent several letters to remove the barrier, as did we; but, SCE&G ignored them all having the law on their side as they have a DNR sign-off from 2004 that was acknowledged was a mistake in granting... In any case, SCE&G has been adamant that they would not ask Homeland Security to remove the barrier, and related they would allow their employees, contractors, and guests to boat and fish that area from a utility company boat landing. It has been suggested that DNR may could make that stretch of river a fish sanctuary using the new Fisheries regulations that go into effect July 1, 2012. TU needs to continue to push this issue as a fish sanctuary makes sense to protect fisheries and not allow fishing on a public river in an area not accessible to the public. It would certainly help the stripers in the summer when that beleaguered fishery is up there in heavy numbers, but trout and other species would definitely benefit too. Otherwise, the public has lost access to a third of a mile of a river for security reasons that do not pass any 'common sense' test as the dam is extremely vulnerable with the heavy highway traffic. And utility employees and guests will have exclusive fishing rights to what should be public water.
7) Networking with SC conservation groups (Conservation Voters of SC - Common Conservation Agenda (CCA)/ SC Wildlife Federation - Camo Coalition/ Congaree Riverkeeper/ American Rivers/ Coastal Conservation League)
-- The SC Council has signed on to the Common Conservation Agenda with a small financial contribution and participation at a few of their 'lobby days'. AS SC TU Council Chair I attended the opening Senate meeting with the CCA when desired conservation legislation for this session was discussed in January. While TU lobbying is very restricted as to time and money, TU can support and testify for key environmental legislation as a small part of total efforts.
While not as involved as many of the above groups with the legislative process, we have maintained good working relations with all of these important groups that have proven to be key allies on coldwater issues in the past. The Saluda River Chapter has participated in past CCA meetings and with other collaborative groups, like 'Waters Matter' whose inaugural meeting I attended, and the Camo Coalition that enlists other sportsmen's groups on issue awareness (Keith, Mike, and me; plus, Tom McInnis and Meta Armstrong both attended Camo meetings when they were Council Chairs). We have also worked with the SC Wildlife Federation which the chapter has had a long supportive relationship with (including representation on their Freshwater Fisheries committee for nearly 20 years - Don Eng, Tony Bebber, Dermon Sox, and me). Also, American Rivers was a key coordinator and partner for the chapter as stakeholders in the SCE&G FERC relicensing project, including providing training on the process for all stakeholders at the beginning. And the Conservation Voters of SC provides guidance and leadership with the CCA serving as an ‘umbrella’ group on important environmental legislation in SC, including water quality.
While many of the conservation group issues are not coldwater issues, some involvement and networking should continue. Possibly the SC TU Council can continue in that role, but it becomes more difficult when the Council Chair resides in the upstate as the two previous ones (Meta and Tom) did before I came on last fall. During that time, Keith and Mike and I often attended group meetings, especially with American Rivers, the SC Wildlife Federation and the Camo Coalition which offers key bulk email support from many other sportsmen's groups in SC for action alerts to legislators. The Saluda River Chapter based in Columbia with many of these groups should continue the networking and cooperative efforts.
And of course the Congaree Riverkeeper is our natural local ally with its focus on water quality in the midlands rivers and agreement on key issues. For example, their Board Chair, Mullen Taylor, drafted concerns that supported our objections to SCE&G's FERC Settlement Agreement (SA) while filing for intervention status as we did too. And we both agreed that the SA needs to be implemented without further delay (from intervention) to give the improvements a chance to work, especially as there are Adaptive Management steps to be taken if measures fail. At this point SCE&G is fortunately trial-running the flows and trying to meet the oxygen standards by avoiding large reserve releases in the fall months. They don't have to do that legally since their new FERC license has not been finalized, and the trout are certainly benefiting! As we discussed at the January chapter meeting, NOAA is holding up the license while finalizing a Santee basin sturgeon study. The Riverkeeper and TU will have important roles as the two key non-signatories of the Settlement Agreement to make sure that those that did sign and participate in any adaptive management proceedings are aggressive advocates for water quality and fisheries.
8) Role of Communications
The importance of communications cannot be emphasized enough in advancing conservation causes. A key strategy over the years has been to keep the members, and the public, up to date on conservation issues through programs at monthly meetings and also in monthly newsletters (first paper, then electronic), and ultimately our website - thanks to Gary Meinke initially and then Woody Ford with our second site for more than a decade of maintenance as webmasters. That strategy was highly successful in the 1980s and early 1990s when we ran a column in lieu of a newsletter in the SC Wildlife Federation's then monthly newspaper, THE OUT-OF-DOORS. I edited the column initially and Dermon Sox followed for several years, both of us very mindful of the TU conservation mission in all our writings. I then initiated a chapter newsletter again in 1994 as restrictions were put on our Federation column by the post office. Dermon again followed as the next newsletter editor, demonstrating his great communications skills honed as a Lutheran minister and fueled by a love of the outdoors and understanding of the key tenet of resource stewardship which the Federation has advanced for years.
There was an additional benefit of the SC Wildlife Federation affiliation. We not only reached an audience of over 5,000 conservation oriented people, but substantially added to our membership base with quality people, including many who took on leadership roles, like Tony Bebber who served as a Chapter President (before going on to serve as President role of the Federation. And the Federation was a key ally as we provided them with our fisheries input and received their considerable support in return. The Camo Coalition as noted above is a program run by the Federation now which allows for strong support on issues via email action alerts from the wide spread sportsman's community that it brings together, ie, strength in numbers.
The State newspaper also ran an OUTDOORS column ably written and edited by Pat Robertson throughout the 80s and 90s (after several years by Gene Able). Gene and Pat's roles in getting the word out on TU and our conservation efforts were key in establishing the recognition and credibility that we have had over the years. We lost a key ally and much public awareness when The State dropped the column completely, both in print and online. However, the SC Wildlife magazine has greatly supported our mission with numerous articles beginning in 1985 that helped to explain the potential of the Saluda as trophy trout fishery and the benefits of catch and release fishing.
We lost a key tool when our electronic newsletter was not published after 2005, with the website serving as our only forum as no one undertook the huge task of maintaining a member data base as we did our first two decades when the number of members was much lower than the current 300+. The newest website and the use of new social media tools should help considerably now, along with continuing improvements and use of the national TU bulk email tool, and also the new TU "Community" website to be rolled out this year for a more watershed-oriented approach to reaching non-member anglers on the internet, and also a no cost website creation feature for chapters and councils, to even include archivals of newsletters, important documents, etc. The key is still to promote fishing and fellowship along with educational and outreach activities, but never allowing the TU conservation mission to be overshadowed as the number one priority.