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Judge Grants Permission for Dillsboro Dam Removal (NC)

Posted: 01/12/2010
by Kevin Colburn

Yesterday, Superior Court Judge Zoro J. Guice Jr. rejected all remaining challenges made by Jackson County (NC) against Duke Energy's efforts to remove Dillsboro Dam on the Tuckasegee River.  It is extremely likely that the ruling is the final decision on the fate of Dillsboro Dam, as Duke was already poised to begin the removal of the dam early this year based on their orders from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  A Duke representative indicated earlier today in the Asheville Citizen Times that removal could begin in early February, and at least one backhoe has been moved to the site.  . 


Back in 2001 American Whitewater was part of a diverse and open group of local, regional, and national groups that began meeting with Duke Energy to collaborate on a new plan for operating their dams in the Tuckasegee and Nantahala watersheds.  The outcome of the three years of negotiations that followed was a comprehensive settlement agreement that Duke submitted to FERC as their application for new licenses for their dams.  The agreement called for the removal of Dillsboro Dam and subsequent watershed enhancements like enhanced flow releases, new public river access areas, new parks and trails, land conservation, and funds for riparian conservation and water quality improvements.  Unfortunately, the removal of Dillsboro Dam became a controversial issue and the resulting conflict has cost large sums of money and delayed this exciting river restoration and enhancement project for well over three years.


American Whitewater looks foward to celebrating the removal of Dillsboro Dam with the paddling community.  Taking the dam out will provide a great river access area in Dillsboro and allow paddlers (and fish) to pass through the area for the first time in over a century.  It is likely that there will be at least one small ledge at the dam site that may offer some whitewater challenge and/or surfing opportunities once removal is complete.  Paddlers are strongly discouraged from paddling near (or through) the dam removal site while removal is occuring this spring.  We will be working with Duke Energy to communicate the removal schedule and recreational protocol.  


For many paddlers, the crown jewels of the Nantahala and Tuckasegee settlement agreement are the scheduled releases on the West Fork of the Tuckasegee (a class IV romp through a long de-watered gorge) and the Upper Nantahala.  If all goes well these releases could begin in the Spring of 2011, but of course, challenges and delays are possible.  For now though, it is time to celebrate the end of a burdensome conflict and the imminent restoration of a great river. 


We would like to thank the many paddlers that have supported this river restoration initiative over the past nine years, including a special thanks to the Carolina Canoe Club and Western Carolina Paddlers.  American Whitewater has been a vocal and leading advocate for the restoration of the Tuck throughout this project and would like to thank our members, KEEN, and the Conservation Alliance for their support. 







Kevin Colburn
Asheville, NC