Waterway: Saluda R
License issued: 6/1/1984
License expires: 8/31/2010
Background The Saluda Dam hydroelectric project is located in Lexington County, South Carolina ten miles west of Columbia. It is operated by South Carolina Electric and Gas.
The Saluda Dam also known as Lake Murray Dam was built in the 1920s on the Saluda River. At the time it was the largest earthen dam in the world which formed the largest reservoir in the world, Lake Murray. Lake Murray covers 48,000 acres and has a maximum pool of 360 msl. With an installed capacity of 207.3 mw, the Saluda Dam is one of South Carolina Electric and Gas’ largest and most profitable hydropower facilities in the state.
A study conducted by South Carolina Electric and Gas in 2002 concluded that an earthquake similar in magnitude to the 1886 Charleston Earthquake would cause the Saluda Dam to fail putting over 100,000 Lexington and Richland County residents at risk. This study led to a plan to build a massive dam of rock with a concrete midsection to serve as a back up dam and retain the reservoir in case of failure. The project was completed in 2005.
Public Safety Public safety is a major concern on the Lower Saluda River below the dam. The current minimum in-stream flow of 400 cubic feet per second can be increased to 18,000 cubic feet per second in a matter of minutes with little warning. These unannounced high flows have killed a number of fishermen and boaters in the last fifteen years. Eleven people had to be rescued after getting trapped on the rocks due to a high unannounced release in the summer of 2007. Dissolved Oxygen Low dissolved oxygen from high releases has led to fish kills in the Saluda River below the dam. The facility is now required to operate with a minimum DO level of 5 parts per million. Consistent adequate DO levels could enhance the cold water fishery below the dam. Recreation With adequate planned releases, the Lower Saluda River has the potential to become a whitewater destination for kayakers and rafters. The coldwater stretch below the dam supports a stock and take trout fishery. Many Columbia residents use the Saluda for fishing, paddling, swimming, and picnicking.