A spillway gate test by SCE&G appears to be responsible for killing and injuring many hundreds of blue-backed herring in the Lower Saluda on Wednesday, according to Bill Stangler of Congaree Riverkeeper, a conservation nonprofit.
Hundreds of the baitfish could be seen floating and washing ashore between Lexington County’s Hope Ferry Road Landing and I-20 on Wednesday afternoon.
Stangler said it remains to be seen whether anyone will be held accountable for the kill.
“There are policies in place that are supposed to prevent these things from happening,” he said. “[The Department of Natural Resources] may have the authority to issue something like a fine and make recommendations based on this. Their fisheries guys are still out investigating. This will certainly be a conversation the next time [stakeholders] all sit down together.”
Eric Boomhower, spokesman for SCE&G, said it was difficult to determine exactly what caused the fish kill, but that Wednesday’s spillway gate test shouldn’t be discounted. The spillway gates are used to control Lake Murray’s level and a single gate had been tested following maintenance work.
“I don’t know if there’s a way to avoid something like that when you manage the lake the way that we do,” Boomhower added.
For now, Stangler said, striped bass will enjoy a blue-backed buffet and rivergoers may have to endure the odor of fish rot for a few days. He also said that anglers need not worry, as the trout and stripers have plenty of food swimming around this time of year.