Federal regulators have approved a Duke Energy plan to improve or build new recreational areas on the Catawba River reservoirs near Charlotte over the next two decades.
The improvements range from the practical – restrooms will be installed at 28 recreation areas – to the spectacular. Kayakers will get new access to paddle whitewater in the Catawba’s Great Falls near the namesake South Carolina town 40 miles south of Charlotte.
A total of 89 projects will be improved or built over 20 years, Duke says, with 31 to be built over the next five years. The projects will include new picnic facilities, fishing piers, swim beaches, campgrounds, expanded parking and boating access areas.
Duke has been “planning for construction over the past five years by purchasing or leasing property, completing detailed engineering plans and preparing environmental permits,” spokeswoman Kim Crawford said Tuesday by email. “This means the Duke Energy recreation team is ready to start construction on projects slated for the first five-year period, beginning in 2018.”
In the first five years, Duke expects to build 12 new access areas on the Catawba reservoirs. Upgrades will be made to the Black Bear access area on Lake James, Beatties Ford access area on Lake Norman and the Allison Creek access area on Lake Wylie. Fourteen of 20 recreation projects from Lake Wylie to Lake Wateree will be completed.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved Duke’s recreation management plan for the Catawba on Dec. 19. Appendix A (below) of the FERC order is a detailed list of the improvements.
Duke filed the recreation plan after winning renewal of its 40-year federal hydropower license for the Catawba in 2015, which required that Duke contribute $4 million to local governments for public recreation.
The federal license gives Duke authority to manage the river, storing and releasing water needed to make electricity. But it carries an expectation that Duke also offer recreational access to the water.
Duke negotiated license terms with 69 government agencies, advocacy groups and residents over a three-year period. Duke manages 225 miles of the Catawba including 11 reservoirs, from Lake James in the North Carolina foothills to Lake Wateree in central South Carolina.
The federal approval gives Duke the green light to start work.
Projects within five years
Duke Energy says these recreational projects will be completed within five years.
Lake James: Black Bear Access Area; Bridgewater Canoe Portage; Muddy Creek Access Area
Lake Rhodhiss: Corpening Bridge Access Area; Rhodhiss Access Area; Conley Creek Access Area (Sawmills Veterans Memorial Park); Rhodhiss Dam Canoe Portage
Lake Hickory: Gunpowder Access Area; Wittenburg Access Area
Lookout Shoals Lake: Upper Lookout Shoals Access Area; Lookout Shoals Access Area
Lake Norman: Beatties Ford Access Area; Hagers Creek Access Area
Mountain Island Lake: Highway 73 Access Area; Lucia Access Area
Lake Wylie: Dutchmans Creek Access Area; South Point Access Area; Buster Boyd Access Area; Allison Creek Access Area; Rock Hill Park
Fishing Creek: Springs Park Access Area
Great Falls-Dearborn: Nitrolee Access Area (formerly Highway 200 Bridge Access Area); Great Falls Diversion Dam Portage; Great Falls Headworks Portage; Great Falls Headworks-to-Cedar Creek Reservoir Portage
Lake Wateree: Wateree Creek Access Area