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Tuckasegee Dams Get New Federal Licenses!

Posted: 05/06/2011
by Kevin Colburn

New river releases and public access areas are now set happen on the Tuckasegee River and its forks following a decade of studies, negotiations, lawsuits, and agency deliberation. Earlier this week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued new federal hydropower licenses for dams on the East and West Forks of the Tuckasegee River in western North Carolina. The licenses trigger the initiation of a suite of new recreational and ecological enhancements throughout the watershed.

The licenses cover hydro developments on the East Fork (Tanasee Creek, Bear Creek and Cedar Cliff hydro stations) and West Fork (Thorpe and Tuckasegee hydro stations) of the Tuckasegee River. Licenses for hydro stations on the Nantahala River watershed and others are expected soon.

"This first batch of new licenses is a credit to all who worked together to develop comprehensive plans for balancing numerous water needs. We value their insight and are deeply grateful to their commitment to this effort," said Steve Jester, Duke Energy’s vice president of Hydro Strategy, Licensing and Lake Services.

Between 2000 and 2003, Tuckasegee and Nantahala Cooperative Stakeholder Team members invested more than 9,000 person hours visiting sites, guiding study needs, reviewing reports and collaborating to address environmental concerns and public recreation needs. American Whitewater and our regional partner the Carolina Canoe Club were consistently involved throughout this process.The two legally binding agreements, signed in 2003, are the work of stakeholder teams representing 30 organizations, including American Whitewater and Duke Energy.

Before many enhancements begin recreation plans have to be drawn up. Some of the enhancements on the way include:

  • Over 100 days of scheduled flow releases that provide predictable paddling and angling opportunities on the Class I-III Tuckasegee River,
  • Seven annual recreational flow releases on the Class IV/V West Fork of the Tuckasegee,
  • Increased continuous minimum flow releases for the Tuckasegee river, enhancing environmental and recreational values,
  • New or enhanced public access areas along the Class I-III Tuckasegee river, and the Class IV/V West Fork of the Tuckasegee,
  • Transfer of about 150 acres of Duke Energy property upstream of Wolf Creek Lake to the U.S. Forest Service for enhanced public recreation and protection of native brook trout habitat,
  • Numerous new reservoir access areas and flat-water recreation sites.

American Whitewater, Duke Energy and other groups that signed the 2003 settlement will be meeting soon to discuss any changes that may be requested in the FERC licenses, commence work on the recreation and construction plans, to schedule these enhancements, and to break ground on these exciting projects. We’ll keep paddlers up to date on when releases will begin, and on volunteer opportunities as we work to build trails and get ready for some great new recreational resources. American Whitewater has worked on this issue for exactly a decade, and we are thrilled to finally have FERC licenses for these projects, and to be moving forward towards restoring recreational and ecological values to the Tuckasegee River. 

Kevin Colburn
Asheville, NC

Associated Projects

Tuckasegee Relicensing (NC)
AW signed a settlement calling for new dam releases, sweeping conservation measures, new access, and the removal of Dillsboro Dam in North Carolina.

Associated Rivers