It may be October and the fall weather has finally reached us, but lake season is not over yet, not by a long shot.
When I first discovered High Rock Lake, I learned that it’s a reservoir owned and operated by Cube Hydro Carolinas, an affiliate of Cube Hydro Partners since February 2017. Cube Hydro took ownership of four hydroelectric power plants located along the Yadkin River from Alcoa. The facilities – High Rock, Tuckertown, Narrows, and Falls – are expected to produce nearly 885,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of clean, reliable electricity per year.
Hydropower is Clean Power
Cube Hydro is an independent hydropower company that buys, develops, and modernizes hydropower facilities in North America. They are committed to responsibly developing hydropower at existing dams using innovative and environmentally friendly technologies. The 19 hydropower facilities are in 5 states and along 10 river systems. Collectively, the projects add 385 megawatts of capacity to the electric grid and produce approximately 1.5 million megawatt hours of clean energy annually, that’s enough electricity to power 147,000 homes.
Beyond ensuring the continued generation of clean energy at the various projects, Cube Hydro is investing millions of dollars to improve the environment. These investments include the construction of a nature-like fish passage at the York Haven facility on the Susquehanna River, working with the National Park Service to install eel passages at the facilities on the Potomac River, and installing new aerating turbines to improve the water quality at the Yadkin High Rock facility. High Rock is one of the four hydro power facilities – collectively called the Yadkin Project – that Cube Hydro owns and operates in North Carolina.
“Cube Hydro is proud to provide reliable and affordable hydroelectricity from the Yadkin Project to meet North Carolina’s increasing demand for clean electricity, and we’re committed to partnering with communities to produce economic and environmental benefits in the region, as well as maintain recreational areas that the public can enjoy. Cube Hydro looks forward to working with local, state, and federal officials to ensure the Yadkin Project remains a valued asset to all North Carolinians,” said Mark Gross, VP of Operations at Cube Hydro.
In addition to partnering with GE Renewable Energy to install new aerating turbines at High Rock to improve water quality, Cube Hydro has developed patent-pending technology, the linear aerating value, to further improve oxygenation in the Yadkin River.
Cube Hydro is committed to maintaining recreational areas in the communities surrounding the Yadkin Project, from sailing and skiing, to bird watching and fishing. A list of just some of the many ways the lakes provide enjoyment for people in the region can be found on their website here.
Good for Public Safety
In addition to providing public access recreation areas near all four reservoirs, Cube Hydro manages approximately four thousand licensed pier permittees at two reservoirs – High Rock and Badin. Public safety at the recreational areas is one of Cube Hydro’s top priorities. Encompassing that priority is the annual free community event in June at the public swim areas on High Rock and Badin to raise awareness of water safety. Cube Hydro, in partnership with various law enforcement agencies, gives away more than 100 life jackets during these events to children and raises awareness by arranging water safety games and other demonstrations. Cube Hydro also cooperates with local law enforcement and state officials, such as NC Wildlife Resource Commission, to ensure ongoing safety on the Yadkin Project reservoirs, and supports the annual High Rock Lake CleanSweep as its platinum sponsor.
What Does the Future Look Like?
As part of the implementation of the Yadkin Project Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license and the Relicensing Settlement Agreement, Cube Hydro is also working to provide additional public benefits to the areas surrounding the Yadkin Project, including:
- Enhancing the tailwater dissolved oxygen to support fish and aquatics and recreation;
- Funding improvement to facilities at certain access areas and the High Rock portage trail;
- Making a monetary contribution to the Yadkin Pee Dee River Trail Fund;
- Monitoring and managing exotic species and rare, threatened, and endangered species;
- Supporting Alcoa (former project owner) in the sale or donation of non-project lands to the state or the Land Trust for game lands, recreation, and/or protection and preservation (Alcoa recently sold approximately 2.310 acres of lands near High Rock to Three Rivers Land Trust and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission);
- Developing new recreation access areas in Rowan County (to include a beach and swimming area); and
- Protecting historic properties and implementing other shoreline management improvements.
What is the Shoreline Management Plan?
I briefly mentioned the shoreline management plan above. A new agreement was signed by Cube Hydro to ensure that the terms of the FERC license are met. High Rock Lake Association, a 1,000 plus membership organization with an all-volunteer board of directors, work in tandem with FERC and Cube Hydro to come to a reasonable alignment for the betterment and enjoyment of the lake. A few examples of the work completed for lake property owners and public use:
- High Rock Lake to be operated to keep water level within 4 ft. of full pond between April 1 to October 31; and within 10 ft. of full pond between November 1 and March 31
- At such times, that the levels in the reservoir falls below minimum elevation, there shall be curtailment of discharge rates to prescribed minimum flow
- Low Inflow Protocol will govern lake operation in time of drought
- Average Expected Lake Level during Recreation Season is projected to be approx. 2 ½ ft. below full pool level
Now, you know why the lake fluctuates and that it’s not all on mother nature’s shoulders. There are lots of people striving to keep High Rock Lake environmentally friendly and accessible.
I would love to hear from you about what’s happening on High Rock lake, please email me at highrock@YourRowan.com.