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Periodically Hydro Dams have to be re-licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The Power companies are required by law to take into consideration a wide variety of issues other than releasing water to generate electricity. FERC’s license conditions for operation ensure equal consideration is given to both power and other benefits such as water quality, recreation, fish and wildlife and wildlife habitat enhancement and protection. There are several ways which Duke Energy could have proceeded. They chose to follow a somewhat similar process to that used for the Nantahala and Tuckasegee re-licensing, involving the participation of stakeholders whose interests would be affected by the terms of the new license.
After three years of negotiations, on July 26th, the Carolina Canoe Club and 74 other organizations signed the Final Agreement for the Catawba/Wateree hydro re-licensing project. The Duke Energy project starts with Lake James in North Carolina and ends below Lake Wateree in South Carolina. The Final Agreement covers 11 lakes, 13 dams and 5 river sections. A total of approximately 160 people representing 85 organizations were involved. Typically there were six major meetings per month - four regional and two state meetings. The Carolina Canoe Club was represented on three of these groups. About a year into the process it was necessary to form smaller technical subgroups that met monthly to devise specific technical studies, ensure that they were appropriately carried out and then analyze the results for presentation to the main body of stakeholders. The Carolina Canoe Club was involved with Flow Studies and Recreation Planning. Other groups studied Water Quality, Aquatic Habitat, Environmental Effects, Commercial Water User Requirements etc.
The results can be seen at the Duke Web Site (www.dukepower.com/lakes/cw/) and the other related links. Not everybody was satisfied with the outcome, however from the Carolina Canoe Club’s perspective, we can feel very satisfied. In conjunction with other interested groups, particularly American Whitewater and various local authorities, Duke agreed to scheduled recreational releases in the five (5) river sections. Previously there had been no scheduled releases in any of these sections In the Great Falls area in South Carolina, since the dams were built about 80 years ago, water only flowed through this section of the river during period of flooding. At Great Falls, we will now get more than 20-28 scheduled releases a year when the new license is issued and Duke makes the modifications to two diversion dams required to supply both the recreational releases and the negotiated aquatic flows – Just think, a whitewater location between Charlotte and Columbia!
The massive amount of documentation produced by this process has to be reviewed by FERC, various State and Federal agencies and is open to public comment- consequently it is very unlikely that a new license can be issued before 2009. Meetings, however, have not come to an end. The Carolina Canoe Club is one of 13 participants in the initial Final Agreement Implementation committee – so stay tuned.
Before I end, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Bob Benner and later Dennis Huntley who worked with me on the Foothills Regional Group, plus Motty on the South Carolina Piedmont Group. I would also like to thank all of the Club members for their support of my actions in these negotiations. I believe that we have a result, which we can be proud of.
If you have any questions about these documents, please contact Maurice Blackburn.