Federal regulators have denied Duke Energy a 50-year license to manage the Catawba River, leaving it with a 40-year term.
The federal license granted last November allows Duke to control 225 miles of the Catawba with a series of dams and reservoirs. The license granted last fall renewed one issued in 1958.
The license gives the company authority to manage lake levels, release water downstream and decide whether piers may be built.
Duke said it will spend $18 million a year to install and operate the environmental measures such as fish passages around dams that the new license requires. That expense merited a longer license term, the company argued.
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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission disagreed, suggesting Duke’s cost estimates were unsupported.
“The nature and extent of these measures are not unusual for a large-sized project like the 819.102-MW Catawba-Wateree Project, and are similar to those required in other recent licenses that received 40-year terms,” the commission wrote Monday.
Duke had little immediate response.
“The 50-year license term was important to us and our stakeholders. We are reviewing the FERC order and will have to weigh our options,” said spokeswoman Kim Crawford.
Some of the representatives of the public who negotiated license terms with Duke a decade ago sided with the company’s argument for a longer license.
Under a 50-year license term, Duke would have doubled the $3 million it agreed to donate to state agencies to buy land for conservation. It would also add conservation easements on 274 acres in addition to the 2,455 acres it agreed to protect.