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Catawba-Wateree Agreement Conditions Will Benefit Fish and Wildlife

Aug. 15, 2006

Ralegh, North Carolina  – Representatives from 70 local governments, state resource agencies, environmental groups and others signed an agreement on Aug. 11 to help facilitate renewal of Duke Energy’s federal license to operate its Catawba-Wateree Hydropower project in western North Carolina.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission provided early and ongoing input in the re-licensing process to ensure that conditions stipulated in the agreement were favorable to fish and wildlife, as well as their habitats.

Increased water flows and improved water quality conditions, particularly in the Catawba River below Lake James, will provide better habitat for fish, mussels and other aquatic wildlife.

“Trout and other fish in this river section will benefit from increased dissolved oxygen during the summer when conditions are typically the most severe,” said Chris Goudreau, hydropower licensing coordinator for the Commission. “We hope to see more trout grow to catchable size in this reach.”

Mussels should benefit through increased flows in the 6-mile Catawba River bypass below Lake James. Since 1919, when Lake James was completed, flow in the bypassed reach has been reduced to very low levels. While six species of mussels in this area have held on for nearly 90 years, additional flow is expected to give the mussels an opportunity to increase their numbers and distribution in the river.

Hunters, anglers, boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts will also benefit through the acquisition of more than 4,000 acres of prime wildlife habitat and additional boating access and public fishing areas.

“We expect better fishing, waterfowl hunting and wildlife viewing, particularly on the Catawba River below Lake James and Lake Hickory and on the Johns River,” Goudreau said. “The agreement calls for several new boating access areas and public fishing areas in these river reaches as well as on each reservoir.”

Many of the existing boating and fishing access areas will be improved or amenities will be added, such as picnic areas, trails, swimming beaches, restrooms and lighting.

Higher lake levels during the spring and fall on some reservoirs will allow boaters to enjoy their recreational activities for more of the year.

As part of the agreement, Duke Energy will help the Commission purchase more than 2,800 acres along the Johns River. This land will become a part of the Commission’s game lands program and will be open to hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing.

The Commission also will be managing the land to improve habitat for nongame species — animals that are neither hunted nor fished — by installing bat houses, protecting heron rookeries, monitoring eagles and protecting bog turtle sites.

“The biggest challenge during the process was to look forward 50 years and try to balance the competing needs for the limited amount of water,” said Goudreau. “We feel that our environmental interests were met, while not jeopardizing the public’s requirements for energy and water that this project provides.”

Comprising 13 hydropower stations and 11 reservoirs, the Catawba-Wateree project spans more than 200 river miles and encompasses approximately 1,700 miles of shoreline in western North Carolina and parts of South Carolina.

The agreement was part of a 3-year process to gather input from interested parties on all issue related to the project and include those agreements in Duke Energy’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license application, which is due Aug. 30.

To find out more about Duke Energy's Catawba-Wateree Hydroelectric project, visit www.dukepower.com/lakes/cw/.

 

 
 
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