Duke Catawba Hydro Project Relicensing

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is in the process of determining whether and under what conditions to issue a new license to operate the dams on the Catawba River. It is likely that the duration of the license will be for 50 years so it is essential that the license include provisions adequate to address the threats to the Catawba River over the next fifty years. The Catawba Riverkeeper is actively involved in commenting on the proposed license.

Final Environmental Impact Statement

Lake Wateree DamThe Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the 13 hydroelectric dams along the Catawba and Wateree Rivers. This document discusses many of the issues related to the operation of these dams known as the Catawba-Wateree Project (P-2232).  The FEIS includes as recommended actions some of the actions requested by the Catawba Riverkeeper, but we believe that there are significant areas where the recommendations in the FEIS are not adequate to protect the River.  For example, the Catawba Riverkeeper urges FERC to require higher minimum flows in the River.  

At first blush, it seems that FERC has retreated from some of its recommendations in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).  In the FEIS, FERC is recommending:

    • Installation of a 10,000 cfs bladder dam at the Lake Wateree dam;
    • Creation of a new access area on Lake Cornelius, but not the additional East Wateree access area that was recommended in the DEIS;
    • Including all Duke-owned islands in the project boundary, but not all Duke-owned access areas and fishing areas as proposed in the DEIS;
    • Making the proposed normal minimum elevations conditions of the license to be enforceable at all times except when operating under the Low Inflow Protocol or the Maintenance and Emergency Protocol; and
    • Adding Landsford Canal to the list of parks that may be leased to state or federal governments, but clarifying that these park properties should be included in the project boundaries.

Comments from stakeholders on the recreational enhancements also included: (1) a request that the non-license article measure to provide $600,000 to Burke County, North Carolina DENR, or others to develop approximately 6 miles of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail Corridor be included as a license article; (2) concern about the non-license article measure where CIN would maintain a canoe access outside the project boundary; and (3) a recommendation that the license include provisions for the establishment of a water trail from Wateree dam to Congaree National Park.   FERC is not recommending including any of these suggested enhancements in the RMP or license article. 

Water Quality Certification

In related news, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) rejecently denied Duke's request for a water quality certification for the discharges from the dams along the Catawba River and Wateree River.  Duke will be required to file a new application and get approval from DHEC before FERC will reissue a license to operate the dams.

Additional WQC Updates in North Carolina:

NCDENR is required under the federal Clean Water Act to assure that rivers have sufficient water flows to maintain fish and wildlife, recreation, and water supply. However, instead of meeting those requirements, NCDENR has been negotiating land swaps with the companies that operate dams along rivers.  EPA explained that adequate river flows are essential for clean water and that North Carolina cannot trade them away. Just as life on land needs clean air, river life needs clean, flowing water for survival.  No other conservation measure, even those with other public benefits such as land protection, can replace the essential values provided by water flowing in a river.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined last week that North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) may not allow land purchase or protection as a substitute for requiring the adequate stream flows needed for healthy rivers.  EPA instructed the state to discontinue using the policies which allowed land for water swaps pending further review. In the same letter to NCDENR, EPA explained that certain land-for-water trades may violate water quality regulations, and it requested that NCDENR provide information on past applications of its policy for further EPA review.   EPA’s determination could affect all North Carolina rivers with hydroelectric power dams, which include most of the state’s major water courses. Continuing reading entire American Rivers press release here

Read EPA's Letter to NCDENR here.

Links to Key Documents:

Written comments relating to the relicensing process should be filed with: Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street, N.E., Washington, DC, 20426. All comments must be filed by May 8, 2009, and should reference Project No. 2232-522. Comments may be filed electronically via the Internet in lieu of paper. The Commission strongly encourages electronic filings. See 18 CFR 385.2001(a)(1)(iii) and instructions on the Commission’s website at http://www.ferc.gov under the eLibrary link.


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Jan 25, 2017 NC Riverkeeper Report
From the perspectives of 12 NC Riverkeepers, this report discusses how multiple environmental issues pose challenges in the pursuit of clean, plentiful water. Whether you are in North Carolina or downstream in South Carolina, read this report about the state of environmental enforcement.
Dec 13, 2016 Community Foundation of Gaston County grants $5,000 to CRF for Riverkeeper Program
The Community Foundation will fund Catawba Riverkeeper's work in Gaston County.
Dec 12, 2016 A Successful Launch of our Water Education Program at Great Falls Elementary
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in partnership with 4-H Clemson Cooperative Extension successfully completed our pilot Education Outreach Program with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students from Great Falls Elementary.
Sep 27, 2016 Lake Wateree Fall Cleanup a Sweeping Success
86 volunteers collected 5,490 pounds of trash from Lake Wateree
Jun 13, 2016 Dozens of Youth Reached in Water Education Outreach Program Pilot Lessons
More news…
Report Pollution in the Catawba River

Help protect your River! 

Tell your Riverkeeper if you see:

  • Sewage Overflows
  • Failure to control sediment from construction sites
  • Illegal clearing of buffer areas
  • Fish kills 
  • Unpermitted discharges
  • Other issues that concern you

Click here to fill out a pollution report or to report water pollution to Catawba Riverkeeper by phone, call 1-888-679-9494 or 704-679-9494.  In addition, to informing your Riverkeeper, you should also report spills or contamination to federal, state and local environmental officials.

To report South Carolina water pollution call 1-888-481-0125.

To report North Carolina spills or fish kills, call your local regional Department of Environment & Natural Resources office during normal business hours (704-663-1699 for most Catawba basin areas or (828) 296-4500 for Burke, Caldwell, McDowell and other mountain counties) or 800-858-0368 after hours.  (For more information on NC spill reporting, click here)


The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is a proud member of EarthShare North Carolina, the North Carolina Conservation Network, River Network and the Waterkeeper Alliance.  It also in in an alliance with Clean Air Carolina to address issues, such as sprawl, that cause air and water problems.

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