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#06-48 February 20, 2006

State’s only fish lock offers underwater view; access limited

Unique to the state and the Southeast, the fish lock at St. Stephen dam affords passage for fish migrating upstream to spawn, and permits visitors an underwater view through a glass window from March 15 through April 15. Due to heightened national security, visitors must make reservations in advance for tours, which may be scheduled for March 15-April 15.St Stephen fish lift

As in recent years, walk-in visitors at the fish lock will not be allowed. Reservations for guided toursare free, but space is limited. South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff will explain the lock operation and its importance to fishery resource conservation. For further information, or to make reservations, contact Sabrina Wright at DNR’s Dennis Wildlife Center in Bonneau at (843) 825-3387.

DNR operates the fish lock, built by the US Army Corps of Engineers as part of the St. Stephen Dam on the Rediversion Canal in Berkeley County.

“The fish lock operates on the same principle as navigation locks that let boats pass through dams,” said Steve Leach, DNR fisheries biologist with the Freshwater Fisheries Section. “It allows migratory Fish lift diagramfish like American shad and blueback herring to move from the Santee River to Lakes Moultrie and Marion and into the upper Santee, Congaree and Wateree rivers during their annual migration. This opens large areas of spawning and nursery grounds allowing fish populations to expand in numbers. These fish provide recreational and commercial fishing opportunities, ecological benefits from transfer of energy from the ocean to freshwater, and are a primary food source forgave fish such as Santee-Cooper striped bass.”

The fish lock is capable of transporting thousands of fish upstream and over the dam daily, and an underwater window gives visitors a unique view of fish migration while allowing biologists to monitor fish passage into the lakes. Fish migration is a natural phenomenon though, and so is subject to changing environmental conditions including water discharge. Viewing of fish at a specific time cannot be guaranteed.

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