Networking with SC conservation groups
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.