From Scott Carlberg

Summertime is lake time in the Carolinas. For good reason. For instance, “Lake Marion, the largest lake in the state, is an outdoor paradise. …It features an abundance of wildlife and a legendary status for record game fish catches,” says the Orangeburg Times-Democrat. 

Absolutely right, and Marion will remain a treasure. Same with other lakes that utilities manage to the benefit of people who fish, swim, boat, and by the way get electricity.

Long-term. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ensures that lakes managed by electric utilities are handled with consistent and long-term oversight for public benefit. The oversight continues even if ownership by a utility changes. For example, if Santee Cooper is sold to an investor owned utility, Lakes Marion and Moultrie would continue to be regulated by the same consistent plan as they are today.

Images from FERC website and Shoreline Management Guide

Keys to FERC oversight are comprehensive long-term Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs) from utilities.  SMPs address power operations, recreation, residential use and vegetation management, for instance.

Mother Nature sometimes has its way, as we have seen in the excessive rain along Carolina state lines recently. These plans anticipate problems and can reduce damage compared to no control at all.

SMPs transfer with a utility licensee. Utilities cannot just change SMPs. FERC reviews and approves SMPs and any proposed changes. Requests are not necessarily approved.

FERC’s Guidance to Shoreline Management shows the diligence and diversity of requests. Here’s a graph suggested by FERC with examples of its decision-making.

A map image from a Duke Energy SMP.

Take a look at a few of these SMPs and see how detailed they are.

What stands out in these plans:

  • Immense time and research go into managing lakes.
  • Lake plans are long term.
  • FERC is diligent in its responsibility.

FERC lays out the utility’s responsibility: “An SMP is a comprehensive plan to manage the multiple resources and uses of the project’s shorelines in a manner that is consistent with license requirements and project purposes, and addresses the needs of the public. Striking a balance between local economic interests and protecting project resources associated with conditions of the license allows the public to enjoy those resources, and is vital for the long-term success of an SMP.”

FERC helps keep Carolina lakes a long-term treasure.