Duke Energy operations cut after drop in lake levels

LAKE WYLIE -- Weekend boaters and residents noticed low water levels at Lake Wylie, where lake levels posted this week were almost 5 feet below the full-pond level.

Lake Wylie's lake level Monday was 95.3, or 4.7 feet below the 100, full-pond level, according to Duke Energy's Web site, www.duke-energy.com. However, the year-round target range for Lake Wylie is 97.

"The lakes are certainly not at the normal level because of the drought that we're in," said Rick Rhodes, spokesman for Duke Energy. "We're doing our best to maintain those levels and cutting back our hydro operations."

Bonnie Jones of Charlotte, who camps on the lake every weekend in her pontoon boat, wasn't too happy while pulling out at the Copperhead Island Access Area on Sunday.

"I broke two trailer lights," Jones said. "I was afraid if I went in any deeper, I would have ruined the engine on my truck."

Lake resident Darrin Skinner said he can see trash under his pier, including a tire and lawn chairs, that he's never been able see before. He said the family decided not take the boat out this weekend.

"We didn't want to risk running aground," said Skinner, who lives near Withers Cove. "I'm sure I could maneuver it, but I think the bow would be touching the ground.

"It's almost like a beach area, it's just mud instead," he said.

Lake management officials aren't overly concerned yet.

"When we get around 95 level, we plan to increase our surveillance of boat ramps," Rhodes said. "Typically, when it's around 93, there's potential to shut down ramps."

Rhodes said the drought is affecting the entire Catawba River chain, and it's "a balancing act" to manage the entire river system of 225 miles and 11 reservoirs.

"We're moving water to meet the environmental needs and trying to balance the needs for everyone on the basin," he said.

Despite recent showers, Gaston and Mecklenburg counties in North Carolina are facing a moderate drought, according to www.ncdrought.org. Last month, Drought Response Committee members unanimously upgraded the drought level to "moderate" in South Carolina, too.

"We're doing our very best to manage with the lack of rain," Rhodes said. "We believe we're in good shape now. We encourage the public to notify us."