Whitewater Boating Tests a Great Success at Catawba's Great Falls

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Located just one hour from the Charlotte, NC and Columbia, SC metropolitan areas, the Great Falls of the Catawba River has potential as a whitewater boating hotspot for the area. On October 23 and 24, a flow study conducted by Duke Power and attended by kayakers from throughout the region confirmed that Great Falls holds great promise as a highly coveted recreational boating stretch. The Catawba River, dammed since the early part of the century for hydropower development, is almost dry through the Great Falls channel due to diversion dams that shunt the river's flow to a powerhouse. Duke Power Company, seeking a new license for their operations on the Catawba, conducted the study to determine the recreational potential of this two-mile stretch. Recommended instream flows, for both recreational and ecosystem benefits, are taken into consideration by FERC while determining license conditions for hydropower operations. Duke is negotiating with environmental and outdoor groups on how much water should be put back into the channel, and how often whitewater releases would occur.Providing a continuous stretch of Class II-III whitewater, kayakers participating in the recreational flow study praised the stretch as having opportunities to do tricks on waves, as well as providing a chance to practice technical maneuvers while running the river. The kayakers tested both channels of the whitewater stretch at three different flows that were comparable to flow levels of the Catawba before construction of Duke's dams. The results of the flow study are encouraging for whitewater enthusiasts in the region. River advocates continue to push for flows to restore aquatic habitats and create recreational opportunities as conditions of a new operating license. Settlement negotiations are scheduled for completion by August 2006.