- Associated Press - Thursday, November 26, 2015

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The federal government has approved Duke Energy’s license to manage 225 miles of the Catawba River in North Carolina and South Carolina for 40 more years.

To get its new license, the utility agreed to conserve $16 million in land, spend $4 million developing public recreation sites and build passages so fish can get around the dam that creates Lake Wateree in South Carolina.

The utility had asked for a renewal for 50 years. Duke Energy’s license had expired in 2008, but legal challengers forced a long delay in the process to get a new one, The Charlotte Observer reported (https://bit.ly/1Hq2L6L).

The utility operates 13 hydroelectric stations and 11 reservoirs on the Catawba River. The predecessor company to Duke Energy began making electricity on the river 111 years ago.

The license was approved Wednesday, retroactive to Nov. 1.

“We’re glad to see this thing finally issued. This is a well-balanced, well-negotiated agreement for the region,” said Vicki Taylor, executive coordinator of the nonprofit Catawba-Wateree Relicensing Coalition created in 1999 to try and assure the area’s natural and economic resources were protected in the renewal process.

The Catawba helps Duke Energy generate a quarter of its power and the river provides drinking water for 2 million people in the Carolinas, the utility said in a statement.

“The significance of the new license cannot be overstated. Receiving the new license ensures the Catawba-Wateree River will continue to support and sustain communities across the Carolinas for at least the next 40 years,” said Steve Jester, vice president of water strategy, hydro licensing and lake services for Duke Energy.

The way for the new license was cleared earlier this year when South Carolina granted Duke a water-quality certification.

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Information from: The Charlotte Observer, https://www.charlotteobserver.com

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