U.S. Water News Online
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A federal judge has been asked to lift a
decade-old injunction barring the use of Russell Dam's reversible
turbines for commercial hydropower production.
In a request filed by the Justice Department, the Army Corps of
Engineers cites $34 million in environmental studies and fish
protection programs as evidence the reversible units can operate
without harming the environment.
``The Corps of Engineers has gone above and beyond what would
normally be required of an agency to assure that the Russell turbines
can operate in an environmentally acceptable manner,'' said spokesman
The $600 million project on the Savannah River has four reversible
turbines built to pump water from Thurmond Lake back to Lake Russell
for reuse in power production.
When the turbines are reversed, fish are sucked inside and killed.
The fish kills sparked a 1988 lawsuit against the corps by the state
of South Carolina, the National Wildlife Federation, and the South
Carolina Wildlife Federation. The plaintiffs won an injunction
requiring the corps to prove the turbines can be used safely before
the dam can produce commercial hydropower.
The corps acknowledges the turbines would kill millions of fish
per year, but contends those fish are less than 1 percent of Thurmond
Lake's fish population, rendering the numbers insignificant.
Parker noted that the main species killed by the turbines --
blueback herring and threadfin shad -- are so abundant in many
Georgia lakes that their burgeoning populations are becoming a
But Angela Vining, executive director of the South Carolina
Wildlife Federation, said there are lingering concerns.
``The fact is that billions of fish will get chopped up, and you
can't say that has no impact,'' she said.
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