whoosh! Santee Cooper sends fish flying over the Santee Spillway

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For over 80 years, the Santee Spillway has helped control the flow of water between Lake Marion and the Santee River, but it has also blocked the migration of fish swimming upstream to spawn. Now, a new public-private research project is allowing American shad and blueback herring to “jump” over the weir and onto the spawning grounds.

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Santee Cooper and Whooshh Innovations are conducting a field study on the ability of the Whooshh Passage Portal (WPP) to transport these fish species upstream and over the spillway from Santee in Lake Marion.

“During this field study, American shad traveled through the Whooshh system. This is a significant milestone and we are encouraged by the success we have had so far,” said Jane Campbell , senior director of environmental and water systems at Santee Cooper. “We will continue to work with other environmental, research and utility organizations to see if the system is an effective and economical solution for fish passage in the Santee Cooper Lakes.”

The study evaluates WPP’s innovative transport technology for shad and herring with respect to passage efficiency, fish health and migration success. The study, which is funded by EPRI by Santee Cooper, FirstLight Power, New Brunswick Power and New York Power Authority, began on February 21, 2022 and is expected to be completed by the end of this month.

The field study also addresses an anticipated fish passage requirement for the Santee Cooper Project’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license renewal. Currently, fish passage occurs at two locations on Santee Cooper Lakes – Pinopolis Lock and St. Stephen Hydroelectric Generating Station.

“Many East Coast hydroelectric operators are working toward relicensure by FERC, and providing fish passage facilities at hydroelectric dams is a top priority for federal and state agencies due to the declining inventory and ongoing restoration efforts,” said Brandon Delis, director of environmental science and technology at EPRI. “This study is an important step toward finding fish passage solutions at the Santee Spillway and other locations.”

The Whooshh Passage Portal moves fish through a tube using only water mist and differential pressure to slide fish from the downstream entrance to the upstream exit. The field study will help provide additional data needed to assess the effectiveness of the WPP entry system and to confirm the health of fish moving through it.

“Like salmon, spawning adult shad play a vital ecological role and are capable of migrating hundreds of miles upstream,” said Whooshh Innovations CEO Vincent Bryan. “This is an exciting time for the rehabilitation and restoration of native fish populations, and we are excited to collaborate on this study and take another step towards a more fish-friendly hydropower future.”

In addition to shad, adult herring are important to the South Carolina ecosystem. Herring migrate between fresh and salt water and can travel up to 100 miles to spawn.

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