From Scott Carlberg

Lakes licensed to utilities are protected for citizens. Know the facts.

A letter to the editor of the Orangeburg Times and Democrat, Lakes Asset is at Risk, prompts ECC to remind consumers about lakes as licensed utility assets.

The letter was from the Santee Cooper Counties Promotion Commission, saying that a sale of Santee Cooper to an investor owned utility (IOU) could endanger Lakes Marion and Moultrie. Santee Cooper is their licensee. The claim: Only Santee Cooper – with no free enterprise incentive, still run almost entirely by past managers – can appreciate these treasures.

The Promotion Commission claims Santee Cooper goes beyond FERC requirements. Well, Santee Cooper has not updated its lakes license since 2006. Meanwhile, in that time another Carolina IOU has relicensed an entire lake and river system complete with a comprehensive relicensing agreement signed by South Carolina agencies including the Department of Natural Resources and Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism as well as local cities, towns and counties that share the lake and river resources.

Santee Cooper told the State of South Carolina in September 2018 that it has been, “Operating under annual license renewals since 2006.” It had a 50-year license starting in 1926, and a license that ran from 1979 – 2006. During that time from 2006 until now, at least one other Carolina utility has re-licensed entire river/lake/dam systems. Santee Cooper, on the other hand, told the State it has three license options for its lake operation: Renew it, surrender it, transfer it.

That seems like quite a difference.

Really, what happens when regulated lakes change hands?

The new lake licensee must follow the same rules as the old licensee. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), lake regulator, told Energy Consumers of the Carolinas, “To transfer a license, the licensee and designated transferee must jointly or severally file an application for approval with the Commission. When a transfer occurs, the new licensee must comply with the terms and conditions of the existing license.

Utilities must file Shoreline Management Plans. Check how robust these SMPs are from Carolina IOUs.

IOU SMPs show:

  • Continuity, stability.
  • Exceptional planning and execution.
  • FERC diligence in oversight.

IOUs operate with stringent oversight, more than Santee Cooper.

So the lakes are important, secure, protected by FERC, SC state agencies, and various laws. Among them: Federal Power Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

As some organizations may say, however, “Facts Are Facts.” In the end, lakes are long-term, protected assets, not because of Santee Cooper, but due to the state and federal regulatory oversight that will continue to govern their care.

It is a good thing that there are regulations to protect lakes. In the end, lakes are long-term, protected assets.


Note: A possible change in lake licensees is not a new topic in this website. In July ECC published a blog, If Santee Cooper is Sold: What Happens to the Lakes?