Santee Basin Diadromous Fish Plan
South Carolina's Santee River system (aka – Santee Basin) currently supports some of the largest populations of diadromous, migratory fishes on the east coast including the American Shad. Keeping that fishery alive means keeping the Santee Basin healthy and restoring access to fish spawning areas.
Diadromous fishes, which must access both marine and freshwater habitats to complete their life cycles, are important for a number of economical, ecological, and recreational reasons. Some species, such as American Shad, Blueback Herring, Hickory Shad, and American Eel, are important commercial and recreational fisheries, while others, such as Atlantic Sturgeon and Shortnose Sturgeon, are endangered.
Populations of all diadromous fish species in the Santee Basin remain depleted compared to historical levels due to a combination of habitat loss and degradation and impediments to spawning migrations and spawning habitat. For this reason, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service recently updated the Santee Basin Diadromous Fish Plan aimed at improving the habitat of diadromous species and restoring access to former spawning and maturation sites.
Since establishing the original Santee Diadromous Plan in 2001, a number of significant accomplishments have resulted to include:
- Construction of a fish ladder at the Columbia Diversion Dam to provide passage for American Shad and Blueback Herring to access about 24 miles of spawning habitat on the Broad River.
- Establishment of science-based instream flows at five hydroelectric projects.
- Establishment and implementation of the Santee River Basin Accord that created programs to conduct American Shad fry stocking and to monitor the presence and spawning migration patterns of American Shad, Shortnose Sturgeon, and American Eel.
- As a result of the Santee River Basin Accord, over 26-million American Shad fry were stocked into the Broad and Wateree Rivers from 2008-2017.
2017 Plan Update
The Santee Diadromous Fish Plan was updated in 2017 with the goal of building on the prior accomplishments and continuing coordination of efforts to protect, enhance and restore diadromous fish populations in the Santee River Basin with Plan objectives to include:
- Improving instream flows at hydroelectric projects;
- Improving water quality throughout the Santee Basin;
- Protecting fish habitat;
- Providing upstream and downstream fish passage; and
- Conducting further population enhancement and monitoring projects.
A PDF copy of the 2017 Plan is available for download here – Santee Basin Diadromous Fish Restoration Plan
Note, the 2017 Plan was amended in May 2019 with the addition of Appendix B – Guide to Plan Implementation. A PDF copy of the amended plan is available here – Santee Basin Diadromous Fish Restoration Plan (amended 2019)
Partnership and Contacts
The four named agencies, listed below, are working in partnership to accomplish objectives of the 2017 Plan. The partnership also includes the utilities operating hydroelectric facilities in the Santee Basin, such as Duke Energy, Lockhart Power, City of Columbia, Santee Cooper, and SCE&G, as well as other federal, state and local agencies with interests in the diadromous fishes of the Santee Basin.
For more information regarding the Plan, contact the agencies:
- National Marine Fisheries Service
- North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
- South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
- US Fish and Wildlife Service
- SCDNR - Diadromous Fish Research
- St. Stephens Fish Lift offers underwater view of migrating fish
- Descriptions of Diadromous Fish Species from the State Wildlife Action Plan:
The Santee River Basin - Originating in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, the Santee Basin is the second largest watershed on the East Coast, encompassing about 16,780 square miles (10,739,200 acres) which includes 12,000 square miles in South Carolina and 4,780 square miles in North Carolina.