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Catawba-Wateree Relicensing

Catawba-Wateree Licensing

Learn how we manage the Catawba-Wateree Project.


The Catawba-Wateree Hydro Project provides 789 megawatts (MW) of clean, affordable, and renewable power, which on average is enough electricity to power approximately 630,000 homes. Hydroelectric plants can be started quickly to provide electricity when customer demand is high. The lakes associated with the Catawba-Wateree Project provide a reliable supply of cooling water for over 7,000 MW of electricity from Duke Energy’s fossil and nuclear power plants. In addition to the power provided by these stations, the reservoirs provide the region with drinking water for more than two million people, opportunities for public recreation and wildlife habitat.

The limits of the Catawba-Wateree Hydro Project are defined by the project boundary, which is generally defined by the full pond contours for the reservoirs, plus irregular shaped areas around the project works (i.e., dams and hydro powerhouses). Even though many of the Catawba-Wateree hydroelectric stations are approaching 100 years old, they are still very important elements in Duke Energy’s generation mix.


The Catawba River begins in western North Carolina near Morganton, and flows easterly and southerly into South Carolina, where it joins Big Wateree Creek to form the Wateree River. The Catawba-Wateree Hydroelectric Project is comprised of 12 hydropower stations and 11 reservoirs located in nine counties in North Carolina and five counties in South Carolina, including the James, Rhodhiss, Hickory, Lookout Shoals, Norman, Mountain Island, Wylie, Fishing Creek, Great Falls, Rocky Creek, and Wateree lakes. The Catawba-Wateree Hydro Project spans over 225 river miles and encompasses nearly 1,800 miles of shoreline, with nearly 80,000 surface acres of water and 255 billion gallons of usable water storage.

Value of Hydro

More than any other energy source, hydropower is fully integrated into the communities it serves. Duke Energy's Catawba-Wateree hydro stations and lakes provide the following benefits to the region:

  • Major renewable energy source
  • Reduced air emissions
  • Peak electrical supply for times of high customer demand
  • Most efficient energy source
  • Reliable source for public drinking water and industrial water use
  • Reliable cooling water supply for fossil and nuclear-fueled power plants
  • Diverse public recreation opportunities
  • Creation of environmental features such as wetlands and reservoir fish habitat
  • Hydropower supports the regional electric transmission grid.

Relicensing Process

Duke Energy filed a new license application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on August 31, 2006, for the continued operation of the Catawba-Wateree Hydro Project. The original license expired in 2008. The Federal Power Act requires non-federal hydro projects to relicense after the original license expires, with the new license being granted for 30-50 years. The original license was issued by the FERC in 1958 as Duke Energy was building the eleventh and largest reservoir on the Catawba River – Lake Norman.

The FERC license conditions for operation ensure equal consideration is given to both power generation and other benefits of the water resource that may include water quality and quantity, recreation opportunities, fish and wildlife habitat enhancement and protection. In February 2003, Duke Energy filed its First Stage Consultation Document with the FERC, which formally initiated the relicensing process. Through an unprecedented three-year relicensing process, Duke Energy committed to work with stakeholders in a basin-wide collaborative process to obtain its new license. The goal of this process was to strike a balance among the Project’s power generation purpose while benefiting the environment and providing other beneficial public uses such as water supply and recreation. This collaborative process involved over 160 stakeholders, representing more than 80 organizations. Stakeholders included federal, state, and local governments, native American tribes, resource agencies, special interest groups, homeowner groups, industry, Duke Energy, and individuals representing a wide array of interests.

This process resulted in the development of a Comprehensive Relicensing Agreement (CRA), signed by 70 parties, that is a collection of recommendations to the FERC for the requirements of the new license. This agreement establishes a partnership with the communities to provide balanced and sustainable benefits for the river and for the communities along the river.

The new license for the Catawba-Wateree Hydroelectric Project was issued by the FERC on November 25, 2015 with a 40-year license term. Requirements of the license include commitments in the CRA and are tailored to the region's priorities, including expanded recreational access and amenities and scheduled releases of additional water flow for recreational purposes. It also addresses water quality enhancements, a new drought management protocol, long-range water supply planning, land conservation, expansion of aquatic habitats, protection of endangered species and preservation of historic and archeological resources.

Duke Energy voluntarily implemented many measures of the CRA early, while others will be put in place in the coming months and years.

Key benefits and requirements of the new license and CRA include:

  • Operational changes including new flow releases and defined lake level operating ranges.
  • Increased aeration capabilities at hydroelectric stations to help improve water quality, enhance aquatic habitats and protect aquatic species.
  • New scheduled recreation flow releases from several dams.
  • Modifications to the Lake Wateree dam spillway to improve the management of high inflow events.
  • New public recreation areas and expanded amenities at existing recreation areas developed by Duke Energy or in partnership with state and local governments.
  • $16.1 million for land conservation, which has already preserved 5,371 acres in the river basin to date.
  • 2,455 acres in conveyances and easements for land conservation, public recreation and water quality protection.
  • Contributions for cultural resource protection and enhancements.
  • More than $4 million in funding for partners, primarily local governments, to develop public recreational amenities.
  • Regional stakeholder organizations to manage droughts and conduct long-term water supply planning.
  • Public information system updates, in addition to online and phone-based resources that have already been implemented.

Duke Energy continues to work closely with the stakeholders of the Catawba-Wateree Comprehensive Relicensing Agreement to implement the requirements of the new license. This new license will provide balanced and sustainable benefits for the river and for the communities for decades to come.