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March 29, 2010

Corps of Engineers, Santee Cooper, DNR celebrate 25th anniversary of Rediversion, powerhouse

On March 25, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District, Santee Cooper and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Cooper River Rediversion Project and the St. Stephen Powerhouse.
           
The idea for the creation of the Cooper River Rediversion Project and St. Stephen Powerhouse came together in a proposal to the Senate in 1968 and a contract was signed between the Corps and Santee Cooper in 1976 to begin construction. Nine years later, on March 23, 1985, construction on the St. Stephen Powerhouse was officially completed and the three hydropower generators began commercial operations. The powerhouse has been maintained by the Charleston District ever since.
           
Guests from across the spectrum attended the anniversary celebration at the St. Stephen facility, including members of the current partnering board, members of the original partnering board that signed the agreement, congressional representatives and employees that have worked on or are currently working on the project. Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Santee Cooper, S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), South Carolina State Ports Authority and the National Marine Fisheries Service all spoke about the project and what it means to the community.
           
The purpose of the Cooper River Rediversion Project is to reduce the flows into the Cooper River and thereby reduce the sedimentation rates in Charleston Harbor. The rediversion saves taxpayers $14 to 18 million per year in annual dredging costs in the Charleston Harbor.
           
The electricity created through the generators at the St. Stephen Powerhouse provides enough power to supply the energy needed for about 40,000 houses in the Santee Cooper power grid.
           
Some 2,493 acres were acquired for project purposes. Of that, more than 2,000 acres are now being actively managed for fish and wildlife through a series of cooperative agreements and licenses. The grounds offer a variety of hunting, fishing, bird watching (including bald eagles and ospreys) and other wildlife observation that can be enjoyed by the public. The Charleston District is committed to managing all natural resources and lands in an environmentally sound manner to ensure these opportunities for the public.
           
"Some of the additional features that have been added to the project over the last 25 years were the completion of all phases for the fish lift attraction installation and pump house, mobile operated trash rake machine, pedestrian bridge and 24 hour security," said Daryln Grigsby, chief of the powerhouse. "We have also upgraded much of the original equipment and components, such as a new dehydrator purification system, station service air compressors, digital governors for all three hydroelectric units, new roof, fish lift brail and holding area structures and more."
           
The fish lift is operated by DNR. It allows migratory fish like American shad and blueback herring to move from the Santee River to lakes Moultrie and Marion and into the Congaree and Wateree rivers during their annual migration. Check out video of shad moving through the lift.
           
The contract that was originally signed in 1976 for the Cooper River Rediversion Project and St. Stephen Powerhouse was set to be in place for 50 years from completion of construction. At the end of this time, in March 2035, the Charleston District will turn over the project facilities to be run by Santee Cooper.

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