Marinas on Lake Norman are being forced by Duke Energy to remove slips for personal watercraft because they were not included in the original leases, many of which were signed years ago.
More than 40 slips have already been removed, and more are likely to be lost soon as Duke continues its compliance inspections around the lake.
The removal of the Jet Skis is being driven by Duke Energy's lake management license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Duke officials say. They say the license requires them to inspect each marina and ensure they adhere to the terms of their original lease with Duke.
Issues that Duke looks for in their inspections, in addition to the personal-watercraft slips, include marinas adding boat slips that result in more docking locations than approved by the FERC or adding unpermitted ramps.
"Duke Energy takes a proactive approach for all types of compliance issues, not just Jet Skis," said spokeswoman Erin Culbert.
However, the loss of the Jet Ski slips is the most visible and potentially controversial issue.
"I think this is grossly unfair," said Lisa Woy, 50, of Cornelius who purchased a watercraft recently. "People like me have gone out and spent thousands of dollars on a Sea Doo and now we may have no place to keep them."
The personal watercraft slips, referred to as "sports ports" in the Duke Lake Norman leases, have already started to disappear from the shores of the lake.
Morningside Marinas at Kings Point in Cornelius had to remove 30 personal-watercraft slips, and within the past year, a neighboring marina at Admirals Quarters pulled out 12 new slips. Harborside Marina could be next, some say.
Residential docks that are in compliance can attach two sport ports. The sports ports do not count as square footage, nor do they require a permit. They can only be used by the owner of the lot where the dock is.
Duke officials claim they are sensitive to the dilemma that the rules present for watercraft owners.
"We generally work with lease holders so compliance is achieved in a reasonable time frame. In the past for cases like this, we've allowed eight months to a year for the slips to be removed." said Culbert.
Nevertheless, the loss of the personal watercraft slips can be problematic for watercraft owners. In some instances, such as for those at Morningside Marinas, dry storage may be available. However, in many other locations, owners have no choice but to store the personal watercraft elsewhere.
Moreover, Duke's license with the FERC prevents more than one vessel to be stored in any slip so they cannot be "doubled up" with a boat in the same spot.
In addition, there is no appeal process for marinas found to be in non-compliance.
"They would already be at their maximum development, as calculated against the original amount of shoreline in the development," said Culbert.
For watercraft owners who lose their watercraft slips, Duke suggests they consider using one of the public access areas where lake enthusiasts can launch their personal watercraft, including Blythe Landing, Ramsey Cove and Jetton Park.
Frustrated owners don't see that as a practical solution.
"I can see having them put an embargo on new Jet-Ski slips going forward from today, but there ought to be some way of reaching a compromise so that people who already own a watercraft and rent a slip would not be hurt," Woy said.
Duke says their hands are tied due to the agreement with the FERC.
"Certainly we will work with residents by giving them time to find other acceptable locations to keep their jet skis," Culbert said.