Duke Energy is asking federal regulators to allow them to raise water levels in Lake James, Lake Norman, and Lake Wylie by 6 inches during the summer months.
The company is arguing that it would make a huge positive difference in terms of drinking water production and recreation when water levels are usually at their lowest.
According to a press release from Duke Energy, the increase would add 8 billion gallons of water to the Catawba River basin during the summer months.
While the increased water levels would provide more protection against beached boats, closed ramps, and excessively muddy water during dry times, it would also add an increased risk of flooding.
Mark Oakley, Duke’s licensing project manager, commented, “The chief concern being, would that extra storage create an exacerbated risk of high water situations up and down the river?”
The Catawba Riverkeepers released an exhaustive article about their concerns with the new plan. They note, “we have concerns with the accuracy of Duke’s model runs of increased flood impacts from its reservoir increases…We have larger questions about how raising three reservoirs 6” actually helps with long-term water quality. Indeed, it could help during drought – but truly, how much?”
Duke Energy’s current plan is to raise summer levels starting in 2025 or when the new Lake Wateree spillway is complete (which now has an 8-year completion window) – whichever comes last.
The goal is to maintain enough storage to withstand droughts but also allow enough room to be able to withstand major flooding events. According to the company, drought is a more pressing issue than potential flooding and thus the benefits of raising water levels outweigh the flood risk.