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Island plan stuck in the water

A fisherman tries his luck among the fallen trees from Goat Island Thursday. Below, another island in Lake Wylie which has eroded to six pine trees. Plans to stop the erosion on Goat Island has stalled.
A fisherman tries his luck among the fallen trees from Goat Island Thursday. Below, another island in Lake Wylie which has eroded to six pine trees. Plans to stop the erosion on Goat Island has stalled.

A year after it began in earnest, the mission to save Lake Wylie's Goat Island has stalled.

The island, for years a popular gathering spot for boaters and locals, continues to erode.

Goat Island has been shrinking for the past 15 years, said Barre Mitchell, who has lived a half-mile away since 1992.

"The land was four times larger when I first moved here," Mitchell said. "Now trees are falling into the water, and pretty soon it is going to be a navigation hazard."

Duke Energy owns the island.

"We are aware of the erosion of Goat Island, and have been monitoring it on and off for a couple of years," said Duke Energy spokeswoman Marilyn Lineberger. "But we do not have a plan for stabilizing the island."

Lineberger added that Goat Island is not considered a navigable hazard. If that happens, they will take a closer look.

"Safety is top priority," Lineberger said.

The preservation effort

C.D. Collins, a board member of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, said other islands on Lake Wylie are in similar condition.

"I wish that Duke would take these projects and do something about it," Collins said.

State Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, talked to Duke Energy last year about saving the island.

Simrill hoped to organize legislators, volunteers and others in an effort to develop a plan.

But he says getting Duke Energy to help has been the holdup.

"The burden is on Duke Energy," Simrill said. "Funding is the stall in the process."

Simrill estimates the cost of stabilizing the island is $25,000. But some engineers have said the price tag could be closer to $100,000.

Though Simrill conceded that money could come from other sources besides Duke, he said the company picking up the cost would be easiest.

Funding can come from three other sources, he said. Volunteers can chip in, the state could fund it or money could come from wildlife funds supported by boat registration revenues.

Losing a landmark

For decades, people have loaded their boats to camp out at Goat Island. But now with the sand slipping away, many fear the next generation won't get to enjoy it.

"I would say that five years from now, this island will be nonexistent," Mitchell said. "Once it goes away, it's not coming back."

Benjy James has been able to look out his window to see Lake Wylie since 1972.

"It would be a loss of the character of the lake," James said. "A lot of the lure and adventure for the children would be lost."

"I have woke up every day, seeing it out there," said his son, Thomas, 22. "To me, it is certainly a landmark."

That's why Simrill got involved in the effort, and why he still hopes something can be done.

"It will never go away completely," Simrill said. "It will just become a muddy spot in the water with a tree on it. It's going to look terrible."

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