GREAT FALLS, SC (WBTV) - Duke Energy is in the preliminary design phase of a recreational whitewater project. A spokesperson with Duke Energy says they have never done a project like this before.
According to Duke Energy and the Great Falls Hometown Association, the energy giant will construct two whitewater channels along the Catawba River near Fishing Creek Dam. The project will also include three kayaking and canoeing put-ins along a stretch of the Catawba River between the Fishing Creek Dam and just south of the Great Falls Dam.
"We would have recreational flows that would be created by running the units at fishing creek hydro station upstream," Duke Energy spokesperson Kim Crawford said.
Crawford says there will be two whitewater channels created near the Fishing Creek Dam. One will be for more experienced whitewater paddlers, another will be for beginners. Duke Energy is consulting several designers across the nation, including S20 Design, the designer of the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.
"The whitewater was something we negotiated for so that it would bring people into the area," Glinda Coleman the Executive Director of the Great Falls Hometown Association said.
Coleman says the Great Falls Hometown Association and the Town of Great Falls are two of Duke Energy's stakeholders in the re-licensing agreement of the Catawba-Wateree Hydroelectric Project.
According to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, "The Catawba-Wateree Hydroelectric project is a collection of 13 powerhouses, 11 dams and reservoirs, and 1700 miles of shoreline which provides reliable drinking water supply for over 1.3 million people and energy to 116,000 homes a year in both North and South Carolina."
In 2007, Duke Energy applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to renew its license to operate. According to Coleman, as part of the new agreement, Duke Energy is required to put money back into the community in order to continue to use the water source.
Since the early 2000s, Coleman says they have been negotiating for Duke Energy to fund recreational tourism. The result was the Great Falls Recreational flow release project.
Coleman says their goal is to bring more visitors to Great Falls in hopes of reviving the economy. Great Falls has had little opportunity since the textile mills closed decades ago.
"I think it will be a revival of what Great Falls was 30 or 40 years ago," Coleman said.
Duke Energy expects the design plans to be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by the end of the year. A spokesperson says the expected completion date is August 2022.