LAKE WYLIE -- The Buster Boyd access area and several other lake access areas will be closed to all boat traffic by this weekend because of lower water levels, with ramps at Ebenezer Park in Rock Hill also expected to be cut off to public use, officials say.
The timing couldn't be worse, with the annual Riversweep scheduled for Saturday.
"More people use Buster Boyd than any other access along the entire (Catawba River) chain," Catawba Riverkeeper Donna Lisenby said.
Last Buster Boyd ramp
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Three of the four ramps at Buster Boyd closed earlier in the summer because of low lake levels, leaving only one ramp open. The last ramp will be closed by Friday, if not sooner, said Marilyn Lineberger, spokeswoman for Duke Energy, which manages Lake Wylie.
Also by Friday, the remaining ramps at the South Point access area in Gaston County, N.C., will be closed and ramps at Ebenezer Park in Rock Hill are likely to be closed, leaving the Nivens Creek access in Fort Mill as the only public boat launch on Lake Wylie, Lineberger said.
"It's in deeper water," Lineberger said of Nivens Creek. "The ramp goes in deeper."
The timing of Buster Boyd's closing is not ideal for some area groups. The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce and Lake Wylie Marine Commission are teaming up for Saturday's Riversweep, an annual volunteer cleanup of the lake. Much of that event centers on Buster Boyd, where volunteers will gather for refreshments and to load a barge at the end of the cleanup.
"They've allowed us to move the barriers temporarily, just for the barge to unload trash," Lisenby said.
But boat owners will not be allowed to enter the lake at Buster Boyd, even if they're helping with the sweep.
Fishing tournaments on hold
The closing also affects a local fishing tournament.
Brett Collins, owner and operator of the Carolina Anglers Team Trail, was set to launch the first of five fall fishing tournaments Saturday from Buster Boyd. The tournament's permits were only for the Buster Boyd access, so now Collins is working on Plan B.
Thousands of dollars are wrapped into the Lake Wylie tournament series, so Collins doesn't want to cancel the event. He's hoping to work with Duke and move the series to Nivens Creek, but he's unsure if that's possible. The Nivens Creek location still could create problems, Collins said.
"I'll bet that's going to be crowded," he said. "They say that would be the only ramp open."
On Wednesday morning, Lake Wylie was 5.6 feet below full pond. Numerous boat ramps were closed throughout the 11-reservoir Catawba chain during the summer.
"Public safety is the top priority," Lineberger said. "It's not that we want to close them down at all. We want them to stay open all the time."
During the drought of 2002, all Lake Wylie ramps were closed.
Duke continues to watch lake levels to determine if and when Nivens Creek might shut down, leaving Lake Wylie completely blocked to public access. But that won't happen in the immediate future.
"At least not this week," Lineberger said. "We're monitoring daily now."