It’s not rocket science, fish like structure. Adding structure in the form of artificial reefs to a body of water will enhance the fishery and the fishing. In terms of economic development more fish means more visitors who will come to catch those fish. A cooperative effort between the SC Dept. of Natural Resources (SCDNR), Santee Cooper Public Service Authority and Santee Cooper County (SCC) is working toward those goals of more fish and more tourists.
“Ask any fisheries biologist and they will tell you that habitat is the most important element in having a good fishery,” said Kevin Davis, owner of Blacks Camp on Lake Moultrie. Davis is a big supporter of the project and also serves the SCC as a board member representing Berkeley County. “This new offshore structure will make Santee Cooper fishing even better than it already is.”
The project began six years ago when SCDNR discussed the notion of improving the habitat in the two Santee Cooper Lakes of Marion and Moultrie. As is sometimes the case in desirable public projects, monies to fund the required permitting by the Army Corps of Engineers was lacking.
This is where Santee Cooper Counties Promotion Commission, known as SCC, stepped up to the plate. They hired Waterfront Solutions to complete the permitting process. Created by the legislature in 1968, SCC is the destination marketing organization for the five counties (Berkeley, Calhoun, Clarendon, Orangeburg and Sumter) that surround lakes Marion and Moultrie. SCC is charged with improving, enlarging, increasing and otherwise enhancing recreation and development in the area around the Santee Cooper Lakes.
The wheels of progress sometimes turn slowly. About two years after Waterfront Solutions completed the application the Army Corps of Engineers approved it. At this point Waterfront Solutions were retained to oversee each site and handle the required paperwork going forward.
The next hurdle was obtaining the materials necessary to complete the artificial reefs and this is where some private interest supporters came into play. Reef building materials were expected to be a costly item in completing the intended habitat.
Two SC pipe and culvert manufacturers, Pre Cast Manufacturing Co. of Moncks Corner and Concrete Pipe & Precast of North Charleston, joined the project by donating defective concrete culvert and catch basin structures to the cause. Those concrete fabrications were more than suitable to use in building the reefs. The next step was to find a place to store the material before deployment.
That third essential element and more came from Santee Cooper PSA. They had property on the diversion canal where the materials could be stored. They also agreed to provide a barge and the manpower needed to place the concrete structures in the selected locations.
To date the cooperative public/private effort has resulted in the completion of ten of the thirty-five intended habitat improvement sites. There is more than 1,358 tons of concrete material that has been deployed in offshore reef locations. The sites also have trees submerged on site to enhance the habitat further. Anglers will be able to find reefs by buoys that mark each site. “The GPS coordinates for each site are available on the websites of Santee Cooper Country and SCDNR,” revealed Davis.
Mary I. Shriner, SCC Executive Director, is a pleased advocate of the project. “I am very excited and proud that we have been able to support the habitat enhancement project,” said Shriner. “If SCC hadn’t agreed to be part of it, it wouldn’t have happened.”
“We have a lot more sites to enhance,” informed Shriner. “I am hopeful that they will all be completed. The project depends heavily on Santee Cooper PSA supplying the barge and manpower to do the deployments. They have been great partners. We will continue to fund the project as long as needed.”
“We have worked very hard over the years to get fishing regulations passed to bring our Santee Cooper lakes back to the world-class fishery it once was.” concluded Shriner.
The Santee Cooper Lakes are already great fisheries. Anglers come from all around to target big catfish, bass, crappie and bream. They can choose from two lakes, two rivers, two canals and a vast swamp to fill their fishing fix. There are 450 miles of shoreline and 171,000 acres of land covered by 756 billion gallons of water. The lakes are also famous for their abundant stock of landlocked striped bass. This new habitat project can only make the fishing better.
For more information on Santee Cooper Country visit their website at SanteeCooperCountry.org or click here for an electronic visitors guide.