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Catawba-Wateree Relicensing


The Catawba-Wateree project provides 819 megawatts (MW) of clean, economical, and renewable power, which on average is enough electricity to power 103,000 homes. Hydroelectric plants can be started quickly to provide electricity when demand is high. The lakes associated with the project provide a reliable supply of cooling water for Duke Energy’s fossil and nuclear power plants. In addition to the power provided by these stations, the reservoirs provide the region with public water supplies, opportunities for public recreation, and wildlife habitat.

The limits of the project are defined by the project boundary. The project boundary for the Catawba-Wateree Hydro Project 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). Duke’s hydro stations are critical to meeting each day’s peak electrical demand. Hydroelectricity normally supplies a significant portion of the electricity needed each day when customers’ electricity usage is highest. Even though many of the Catawba-Wateree hydroelectric stations are approaching 100 years old, they are still very important elements in Duke’s generation mix. The performance characteristics of hydro are not matched by even the newest generation technologies. Hydro also helps insulate Duke electric customers from the cost and risk of having to obtain peak power from outside sources. Replacement power is a very speculative commodity. Its availability is never fully predictable, since sudden problems on other systems or Duke’s can create an instant need that makes replacement power unavailable at any price.

Modern hydro turbines can convert 90% of the available energy potential into electricity making it the most efficient generation source by far. The best fossil-fueled generators are only about 50% efficient.


The Catawba River begins in western North Carolina and flows easterly and southerly into South Carolina, where it joins Big Wateree Creek to form the Wateree River. The Catawba-Wateree Hydro Project is comprised of 13 hydropower stations and 11 reservoirs, 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 within nine counties in North Carolina and five counties in South Carolina. It is the backbone of Duke Energy's generation fleet, providing 819 megawatts of renewable hydropower and cooling water to more than 8,000 megawatts of fossil and nuclear generation.

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
  • Clean source of energy
  • Reduced air emissions
  • Peak electrical supply for times of high demand
  • Most efficient energy source
  • Reliable public and industrial water
  • 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
  • Waste treatment due to in-lake processes
  • Hydropower supports the regional electric transmission grid

Relicensing Process

Duke Energy filed a new license application (August 31, 2006) with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to operate the Catawba-Wateree Project. The original license expired in 2008. The Federal Power Act requires non-federal hydroelectric 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 11th and largest reservoir on the Catawba River - Lake Norman.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s license conditions for operation ensure equal consideration is given to both power and other benefits such as water quality, recreation, fish and wildlife and wildlife habitat enhancement and protection. In February 2003, Duke Energy filed its First Stage Consultation Document with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which formally initiated the relicensing process. The Catawba-Wateree relicensing process involves over 160 stakeholders, representing more than 80 organizations that have an interest in the river and it’s resources.

After the new license application is filed, many activities will continue. Please check these dates for additional information on the relicensing effort.

Additional Work Post-Final Agreement

  • August 22, 2006 – Stakeholders comment on Explanatory Statement to prepare Final Agreement for filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
  • By August 31, 2006 – Duke files License Application with the FERC, including signed Final Agreement.
  • By October 2006 – Parties that sign Final Agreement decide if any rebalancing is needed and revise and file Final Agreement accordingly.
  • By June 30, 2007 – Local governments revise drought response plans and ordinances to support Low Inflow Protocol.
  • By September 1, 2007 – Duke, NC Wildlife Resources Commission and SC Department of Natural Resources identify any boater / swimmer exclusion zones around dams and develop plan to implement.
  • By December 31, 2007 – Duke updates its FERC Public Safety Plans and files for FERC acceptance.
  • By December 31, 2007 – Duke, Water Management Group, and Drought Management Advisory Group revise plan for groundwater monitors.
  • By January 2008 – Water suppliers and Duke finalize charter for Water Management Group and begin meeting.
  • By March 1, 2008 – NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Duke and Crescent Resources identify any potential trails within / adjoining conservation easement areas in NC.
  • By August 31, 2008 – NC Wildlife Resources Commission and Duke renew maintenance agreement for NC access areas.
  • Prior to filing applications for 401 Water Quality Certifications – Duke to add detail as needed to Water Quality Monitoring Plan and Flow and Water Quality Improvement Plan based on 2006 testing and engineering designs.

Relicensing Interests

Duke Energy's interests in the Catawba-Wateree relicensing process are:

  1. Achieve an appropriate and timely balance of stakeholder interests.
  2. Establish and / or expand partnerships to address larger regional issues.
  3. Retain substantial long-term operating flexibility for the project to support efficient, cost-effective electric service to our customers.
  4. Provide any necessary prescribed flows by the most efficient means
  5. Maintain a comprehensive, responsive and cost-effective lake management program


There are three stages of consultation in the Traditional Licensing Process. Although Duke Energy has enhanced this process to include extensive collaborative opportunities for meaningful input.
First Stage Consultation Phase – February 2003 - July 2003 - Identify issues related to relicensing and the studies needed to address them. This stage includes a written First Stage Consultation Document and a formal, publicly noticed meetings with resource agencies and the public.
Second Stage Consultation Phase – August 2003 - August 2006 - This phase begins with the development of detailed study plans and includes the actual field studies, study reports and concludes with the filing of the license application with the FERC.
Third Stage Consultation Phase – September 2006 - August 2008 - This phase begins when the licensee files the license application with the FERC. The FERC conducts this final stage, which includes an independent environmental analysis and concludes with the issuance of a new FERC license.