Maintaining the Ecosystem of the Santee Cooper Lakes
One of Santee Cooper’s many responsibilities beyond the importance of providing power to 46 counties in South Carolina is the maintenance and care of our environment. Part of our organization’s vision and beliefs is to prioritize the wellbeing of the ecosystems in our communities.
Two of the largest and most popular natural features that fall under that umbrella are lakes Marion and Moultrie, both of which are essential freshwater resources for generating power, providing habitats for native animal and plant life, and supplying recreational opportunities to people living in and visiting South Carolina.
The lakes were created in 1941 after the construction of the Santee Dam, as part of Santee Cooper’s Hydroelectric and Navigation Project. Lake Marion is South Carolina’s largest lake at nearly 172 square miles. Lake Moultrie is South Carolina’s third largest lake at more than 94 square miles. Both are known for their large fish and abundant wildlife. The Pinopolis Lock connects Lake Moultrie to the Tailrace Canal that leads to the Cooper River.
Maintaining the natural environment of the lakes’ ecosystem is an important part of Santee Cooper’s responsibility to the state.
Managing Aquatic Plants
Within Santee Cooper, we have a dedicated team of employees that make up the Biological Services unit. This group of experts helps identify and control invasive species of plants or animals that can easily overwhelm the lakes’ ecosystem and hinder recreational activities.
For example, aquatic vegetation like hydrilla has infested Santee Cooper waterways since 1982. It can grow up to an inch per day and overtake native plants, block sunlight, block water intakes and disrupt the stability of the ecosystem. It can also get caught on motors, lines and hooks, making fishing increasingly difficult.
Mosquito control is another necessary task to ensure balance in the lakes’ ecosystem as well as minimizing nuisances and disease. Santee Cooper’s mosquito control program was influential in eliminating malaria from the area by 1950. Our pest management strategy includes more than 50 subdivisions around lakes Marion and Moultrie.
Continued education about lakes Marion and Moultrie is an essential part of maintaining and improving the lakes’ ecosystem into the future. An abundance of invasive species or an imbalance in the environment can mean habitat loss for many essential plants and animals. The Biological Services team is important for the research, development and preservation of the natural habitats provided by Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie.
The environmental team partners with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to manage the land and water of the 160,000 acres provided by the lakes.
“An underwater planting project is an example of how passionate Santee Cooper environmental staff and SCDNR staff are about managing the lakes for the benefit of all the animals that rely on submerged aquatic vegetation and those who enjoy waterfowl hunting, bird watching and fishing,” said Chad Holbrook, Region IV fisheries coordinator at SCDNR. “The staff of both agencies do not see their work as ‘just a job.’ They truly do care about the lakes and do what they can to improve them every day they are working on the water.”
Management of the lakes’ ecosystems is just one of the many ways Santee Cooper is Powering SC.