Terry Shealy isn’t sure who he saw dumping trees into Lake Wylie in the fall. He just knows it shouldn’t have happened.
“This is not the first time I’ve seen them dump stuff, and my neighbors saw it, too,” Shealy said.
Shealy lives on the main channel in the Concord Road area, off Kingfisher Road. A couple of months ago, he noticed what he believed to be a marine services company cutting trees near the bank, taking them onto the lake and dropping them in the water.
Some were large pine trees. At first Shealy thought the barge lost control of a tree or two. But then he noticed a pattern.
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“My biggest concern was, it floated for hours out there and boats were flying around,” he said.
Shealy took pictures from his home, and the following day, piloted a two-seater plane to take more pictures. He contacted Duke Energy, the company that manages the lake. To date, he hasn’t heard back from the company about the issue.
“They said it was illegal to dump anything, even Christmas trees, unless you have permission,” he said of the company employee who answered the phone.
Shealy said he’s seen it happen at least three times in about a year. He wasn’t sure how close to the shoreline the trees were being cut. The lake has a 50-foot buffer rule where trees can’t be taken down.
Buffer disturbance is a county issue. Dumping trees in the water falls to Duke, and its shoreline management guidelines.
Jennifer Culver, environmental compliance manager for York County, said she “heard nothing about” the disturbance described by Shealy. Josh Reinhardt, zoning administrator, hadn’t either.
“This is the first I’ve heard of something like that,” he said.
Jennifer Jabon, spokesperson for Duke, said the company is “aware of incidents” where trees were cut and dumped in the lake.
“Permission was not given for those incidents,” she said. “We have been working with the parties involved to address the matter.”
The shoreline plan allows some trees to be sunk, but nothing as large as what Shealy describes.
“The intent of the guideline is to allow the placement of fish attractors made of natural woody material in Duke Energy-managed lakes as long as they are properly anchored and do not pose a safety risk,” Jabon said. “A common example is placing discarded Christmas trees or other small brush under docks or at safe depths in deep water.”
The shoreline management guidelines from Duke impact homeowners, construction companies and anyone working within the full pond elevation level of the lake. The guidelines were revised in 2006 with the next update due this year. That 2006 version is the one submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for Duke’s hydroelectric re-licensing, approved Nov. 25.
“FERC requires an update within six months of the new license and then an update in 10 years,” Jabon said. “For the six-month update (April 2016), there will be no changes to the shoreline management plan and related shoreline management guidelines.”
Randy Clawson, owner of Clawson’s Pile Driving & Construction, said he hasn’t seen or heard of anyone dumping trees.
“No, you shouldn’t be doing that,” he said. “I can assure you that wasn’t us.”
Clawson’s company is one of 28 listed on Duke’s lower Catawba contractors list, which are knowledgeable about policies and procedures contained in the shoreline management guide. About half of the listed companies are local, ranging from individuals to larger companies. They come from Lake Wylie, Steele Creek, Clover, York, Fort Mill and Belmont.
“Most of the time people do what they should be doing,” Clawson said.
Shoreline guide violations bring an investigation by Duke and efforts to mitigate.
“Mitigation efforts for improper tree disposal may include requiring the planting of new trees or other measures,” Jabon said. “Other means of enforcement include requiring the property owners to remove any approved structures such as docks or piers.”
John Marks: 803-831-8166