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Catawba River Access Enhancements to Begin (NC/SC)

Posted: 01/08/2018
by Kevin Colburn

On December 19, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave Duke Energy the green light to move forward on the Catawba-Wateree recreation management plan. The plan includes public recreation requirements and agreements included in the new 40-year license FERC issued in 2015 for the Catawba-Wateree’s Hydroelectric Project. The project encompasses nearly 1,800 miles of shoreline along 11 reservoirs in nine counties in North Carolina and five in South Carolina. Projects include new picnic facilities, fishing piers, swim beaches, campgrounds, expanded parking, restrooms and additional boating access areas.

The recreation commitments in the plan are extensive and include 89 proposed public projects and enhancements at 32 existing recreation areas; 26 new access areas will be built at a number of lakes over the course of the 20-year project. Construction phases are divided into five-year periods for 20 years. Duke Energy has been actively planning for construction over the past five years by purchasing or leasing property, completing detailed engineering plans and preparing environmental permits. This means the Duke Energy recreation team is ready to start construction on projects slated for the first five-year period, beginning in 2018.

For river enthusiasts, a few planned highlights for the next 5 years include:

  • Improved access, conservation, and a trail that may work for shuttle on the Class II+ Bridgewater reach of the Catawba, which already has significant releases. 
  • A new river access area on Muddy Creek (Near Lake James, between Hwy 40 and I-40).
  • Up to 3 new river access areas on the John’s River (Near Collettsville, at Rhodhiss Reservoir, and a midway point) plus significant streamside buffers.
  • A new river access area and a new USGS streamgage on Wilson Creek near Adako Rd, contingent on Caldwell County management partnership. (if you live in Caldwell Co, NC, please let the County Manager know you are excited about the Wilson Creek gage and access area). 
  • Multiple new access areas and the initiation of releases into the Great Falls of the Catawba.
  • Maintained or improved portage trails around each dam.
  • New access to other riverine reaches of the Catawba.

American Whitewater worked closely with Duke Energy and many other local and regional partners to negotiate these access and flow provisions starting over a decade ago. It is a really exciting time as ground will be broken and we’ll start to see our collective vision take shape on the land and water. We’ll keep you posted as these sites come online, and offer some mapping and tips for how to enjoy these new opportunities. 

Associated Projects

Catawba Relicensing (SC)
The relicensing of a string of dams on the Catawba River could restore the Great Falls of the Catawba, and bring massive public benefits throughout the watershed.

Associated Rivers