Columbia, S.C., Aug. 2, 2004 - South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. will work with wildlife and environmental officials to learn more about the possibility that wood storks inhabit the Lake Murray area and to determine the need and advisability of creating a refuge for the endangered birds within the project boundary line. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recommended the establishment of the refuge last month.
SCE&G will work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to investigate the situation. "We want to do the right thing," said Randy Mahan, environmental services director, "and doing the right thing means involving wildlife and environmental experts, so we don't make any incorrect assumptions about something so important."
Mahan said SCE&G wants to confirm that the birds that have been spotted around Lake Murray are indeed the endangered wood stork and whether or not they are roosting in the area or simply are passing through on their migration route.
Wood storks catch their food by wading in shallow water where fish are plentiful. "That could explain why no one reported seeing wood storks before a couple of years ago; that was when we began lowering the water level for the construction of the backup dam," Mahan said. "Now, as the lake level continues to rise, we don't know whether any wood storks that may have come to the area will stay at the lake or move on to areas better suited to their feeding habits."
SCE&G has a history of protecting special bird populations in and around the Lake Murray area. SCE&G already voluntarily protects nesting areas around Lake Murray for bald eagles and osprey, and the company has established a bird refuge on Doolittle Island, which is home to hundreds of thousands of purple martins each summer. SCE&G is funding scientific studies to determine whether the eagle population at Lake Murray could be susceptible to the same malady that has lead to the deaths of eagles in the Lake Thurmond area. The research has the potential to help the threatened population of bald eagles at Lake Thurmond and elsewhere.
Additionally, SCE&G has preserved 200 acres along the Lower Saluda River, just downstream of the Lake Murray dam, for use by the Irmo/Chapin Recreation Commission. The Saluda Shoals Park includes an 11,000 square-foot environmental center.
"We care about all wildlife around Lake Murray," Mahan said. "Part of being a good neighbor at the lake includes collecting all the facts before determining the best use of property along the shoreline, and that's just what we intend to do in this case. We are not at odds with the Fish and Wildlife Service on taking steps to protect and expand the population of wood storks if it is established that they are, in fact, present on and using SCE&G property at Lake Murray in ways that necessitate some protective action."
For more information about activities SCE&G has taken to protect and preserve the environment, visit www.sceg.com.