Dear Friends,

I just wanted to share this published Shortnose Sturgeon report with you. The research for this report was done by UGA, employee Douglas L. Peterson of the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. According to this report, there is not a fish shortage in the Savannah River. It appears just the opposite, the Lock and Dam has helped the population of the Shortnose Sturgeon.

The federally endangered Shortnose Sturgeon Acipenser brevirostrum was once abundant in all major coastal river systems from the Saint John River, Canada, to the St. Johns River, Florida. During much of the 20th century, however, populations suffered major declines throughout their range from the combined effects of overfishing, pollution, and habitat loss. Although the species was a charter member of the Endangered Species Act, quantified population assessments are still lacking for many river systems throughout their range. Because river-specific assessments are critical for evaluating species recovery, the objective of this study was to quantify abundance and annual recruitment of Shortnose Sturgeon occupying the Savannah River, Georgia. Anchored gill nets and trammel nets fished during slack tides were used to sample juvenile and adult Shortnose Sturgeon in their summer holding areas during 2013-2015.Huggins closed-capture models in RMark were used to derive abundance estimates for each demographic group. The best models estimated that the Savannah River contained 81 (95% Cl = 27-264) age-1 juveniles in 2013, 270 (162-468) in 2014, and 245 (104-691) in 2015. The models also estimated the river to contain 468 (198-1,273) age-2+ juveniles in 2013, 123 (69-235) in 2014, and 187 (81-526) in 2015. Similarly, the adult population was estimated to be 1,865 (784-4, 694) individuals in 2013, 1,564 (1,005-2,513) in 2014, and 940 (535-1,753) in 2015. The results of this study provide the first population estimate available for Shortnose Sturgeon in the Savannah River. Additionally, the result suggest that the Savannah River likely contains the second largest population of Shortnose Sturgeon in Georgia. Future studies are needed in the Savannah River and other South Atlantic river systems to better evaluate Shortnose Sturgeon recovery status and the effects of river-specific anthropogenic modifications.

Budget Update:

The Senate passed their version of the state’s $9.3 billion budget last week. The House and Senate will meet over the next few weeks to negotiate the differences between the two budgets and come up with a final version. Unlike the federal government, South Carolina has a balanced budget requirement. To see a link to all of the budget information as passed so far by both the Senate and House, go here.


Highlights from the Senate Budget Additions:

State Support to Public Schools: The House version of the budget would give $150 million, at no cost to local districts, for teacher pay raises. The Senate added $15 million to the Base Student Cost but requires the local district to match the funds.

Taxpayer Rebate: The Senate changed the $50 tax rebate to per return and not per taxpayer with an income tax liability.

State Employees Raises: The Senate added a $600 one-time bonus for state employees earning less than $70,000 per year on top of the 2 percent across the board pay increase for state employees the House had in the budget.

Farm Aid — Hurricane DevastationThe Senate added $25 million to set-aside for a grant program to assist famers who suffered devastating crop losses as a result of the flooding associated with Hurricanes Michael and Florence in Fall 2018.

Education Reform Update: 

Earlier this year the House passed a comprehensive education reform bill that includes raising teacher pay, decreasing statewide testing, consolidating small school districts, and creating a committee that will monitor the education system from pre-K to post-graduation. The bill was sent to the Senate where it will go through the same committee process and public hearing debates. Now, parts of the bill have passed the full Senate Education Committee and will be debated next week during the Senate’s budget process.

We are hopeful the Senate will pass an education reform package that not only gives teachers a much-needed pay raise but also fixes some of the deep-rooted problems that plague our current education system. We cannot stall another year, we need to start making steps in the right direction.

FACT: South Carolina is 24th in the nation for funding education but last in test scores and college readiness.

Heartbeat Bill Passes:

 The Heartbeat Bill, H. 3020, passed out of the House on Wednesday after many hours of debate on the House floor. The bill bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected by a physician. The exceptions to the bill are in the case of a medical emergency, rape, or incest.

South Carolina will be one of a few states to hold the most conservative stance on this issue. I’m proud of this huge step made and I hope the Senate will get on board with the House and the Governor to pass this into law.

“We appreciate the leadership of those elected officials who continue to affirm that life is worth protecting. The South Carolina General Assembly has worked tirelessly for many years on a great deal of affective pro-life pieces of legislation, and we support their continued efforts to extend the God-given right to life for persons within the womb.” -Joshua Putnam, Palmetto Family

Rideshare Safety Update: 

The Senate has taken recommendations from popular rideshare companies and replaced the House version of the Samantha Josephson Rideshare Safety Act with their own proposal. Instead of light-up signs on Uber and Lyft vehicles, the bill now requires rideshare drivers to display license plate numbers on the front of their cars.