By summer, the clock could start ticking on expanded recreational amenities on Lake Wylie.
Ronnie Lawson of Duke Energy, reporting to the Lake Wylie Marine Commission at its Feb. 23 meeting, said his company could receive its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license to continue operations along the Catawba River.
“We’re hoping that we may have a license by this summer,” he said. “It could be (for) anywhere between 30 and 50 years.”
Duke met with stakeholders for several years in advance of its 2008 license application deadline with FERC, which allows Duke to operate power plants and manage the 11 reservoirs along the Catawba. The company operates on annual extensions of its previous agreement until the federal group issues that license for up to 50 years.
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Because Duke and stakeholders signed off on the agreement in mid-2006, they’ve voluntarily instituted parts of the agreement, such as scheduled water flows for recreation use and creating water-use protocol during drought.
The new license will bring more recreation. The agreement includes 3,450 acres throughout the basin to be sold by Duke for recreation or conservation.
Each reservoir will have added amenities within 20 years of a new license. Some items are dependent on the longer license term, but many aren’t.
The FERC license agreement includes several Lake Wylie projects including restrooms at Buster Boyd Access Area, an RV campground and lease with York County for 48 acres at Allison Creek Access Area, and up to $165,000 toward a new canoe launch and parking on the Catawba Indian Reservation. All would be completed within five years.
A beach area on half an acre across from Rock Hill’s water intake is another addition. Fishing, picnicking, restrooms and parking are part of the plan near the end of India Hook Road, a joint venture with the city that Duke will lease to Rock Hill.
Restrooms, picnic tables and a mile of trail at Fort Mill Access Area would come within 10 years, as would a lease of Simpson Island to York County with up to $465,000 from Duke for amenities there.
Other additions in the next five years include contributions up to $265,000 for a canoe launch and 50 parking spaces with restrooms at Landsford Canal State Park in Fort Lawn, and a lease of 137-acre Culp Island, part of Landsford park, to South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism.
On the North Carolina side, the first five years would bring a canoe/kayak launch and 10 parking spaces at Dutchmans Creek Access Area in Mount Holly, and up to $435,000 for Mecklenburg County to create a new boat access area, to lease 37-acre Sadler Island to the U.S. National Whitewater Center and to solicit a company to add camping, fishing, swimming and hiking at South Point Access Area in Belmont.
Most of the agreements depend on leasing or other arrangements with state and local governments, or state resource agencies.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get that this year and be able to start on some projects,” Lawson said of the license.
Jennifer Jabon, spokeswoman for Duke, said the company has submitted all necessary documents to FERC and is awaiting the license.
“The FERC timeline is not certain, but we believe a new license could be issued in the coming months,” she said. “Once the new license is issued, we can begin implementing the associated benefits, such as land conveyances, resource protection and enhancements and additional public recreational amenities.”
Duke has one year to file a recreation management plan with FERC. Its approval allows work on the projects.
“We are eager to receive the new license and get to work on these great resources,” Jabon said.