Fort Mill Times

Duke land access causes hiccups for first phase of Tega Cay’s Catawba Park

Two men fish along the banks of the Catawba river near the dam at the Fort Mill Access Area. The city of Tega Cay and Duke Energy are working on a plan to create a new recreation facility in the area that would be called Catawba Park. The design phase is nearly complete, but federal regulator has to approve plans before they can proceed.
Two men fish along the banks of the Catawba river near the dam at the Fort Mill Access Area. The city of Tega Cay and Duke Energy are working on a plan to create a new recreation facility in the area that would be called Catawba Park. The design phase is nearly complete, but federal regulator has to approve plans before they can proceed. Fort Mill Times file photo

Design plans for the first phase of Catawba Park—a baseball complex and parking lot on nearly 10 acres the city owns along the Catawba River below New Gray Rock Road – are nearly complete.

“We are approximately 90 percent complete with the designs and construction plans on this and will be prepared to go advertise the project for bid in the very near future,” Mike Fry, president of contractor Campco Engineering said at Tuesday night’s Tega Cay’s City Council meeting.

Although subsequent phases are proposed to develop two adjacent tracts owned by Duke Energy and Clear Springs to complete the 61-acre facility, building the park in pieces has created challenges for the designers.

“The initial phase of the project is going to be on the property that is currently owned by the city, and it happens to be the farthest site away from where the project wants to drain to, which is the river, or the main creek running through the property,” lead project designer Al Walters explained.

“That creates some challenges to how we develop this phase one portion of the project.”

Because the Duke Energy property is currently inaccessible to the city, the land for the baseball complex will need to be filled in an average of three feet in order to drain properly. A temporary drainage pond and gravel parking lot will need to be built.

City Manager Charlie Funderburk estimates the cost of the first phase at $1.5 to $1.7 million. Fry said the cost increase could approximately be 25 percent more than it would be if the city already had access to the Duke property.

“Duke still has to get their overall recreation management plan approved by (the Federal Energy Regulatory commission), which should be, according to the last email I received from them, sometime this fall (of 2017),” Funderburk said.

Funderburk said he was told by Duke that the energy company is still tweaking the language of a proposed lease and that it can’t enter into an agreement until FERC signs off on Duke’s plan for recreation on its properties along the Catawba-Wateree River Basin, which begins in the North Carolina foothills and ends at Lake Marion in the Columbia area.

“FERC will not allow them to grant us any easement or access with any type of construction related project on their property until we’ve entered into a lease, and they will not allow them to enter into a lease until they’ve blessed their plan for the whole thing,” Funderburk said.

Duke spokesman Ryan Mosier said the company hopes the federal regulator will approve plans in time for the company to move forward with Tega Cay and other municipalities with recreation plans along the river sometime in 2017.

Because it falls within the hydro license project boundary, the recreation management plan (RMP) must be approved by FERC first. Numerous recreation sites on the Catawba-Wateree developments (lakes) will be offered to municipalities, state agencies and other organizations through long-term leases. This includes Fort Mill Access Area (offered to Tega Cay).

“In accordance with the FERC license conditions, leases will not be executed with identified lessees and ground disturbing activities cannot begin until FERC approves the (recreation plan),” he said. “We are hopeful that FERC will approve the RMP in 2017 for us to move forward.”

City Council voted earlier this year to spend $465,000 on design work and has almost $1 million available for the park.

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