Commission looks at threats facing the lake

by Alan Hodge

Members of the Mountain Island Lake Marine Commission gathered March 21 at Mount Holly City Hall to discuss future threats facing the lake.

Stakeholders on hand included property owners, as well as representatives from Duke Energy, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, N.C. Wildlife Resources, and local governments.

Participants discussed issues relating to water quality, recreation and regulation of Mountain Island Lake. Bill Dunston from the Centralina Council of Governments acted as facilitator.

“We’re here to discuss the longterm threats to Mountain Island Lake,” Dunston said.

After dividing the group into pairs, Dunston had them come up with lists of challenges facing Mountain Island Lake.

“There are no wrong answers,” he said.

The resulting roster was a long one as groups targeted the impact of development, safety concerns, pollution, utilization of the lake for recreation and as a water supply and exactly who has control over the different aspects of how the lake is used.

Commission member Michael Kirschman with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation pointed to development upstream from the lake as a major source of the problem.

“Most sedimentation comes from miles upstream and places like Huntersville,” Kirschman said. “Look at the creeks upstream after a good rain.”

Commission member Craig Wyant brought up another pollution issue relating to Mountain Island Lake.

“Unknown toxins not related to development such as PCBs (cancer causing elements) could be a major threat,” Wyant said.

Those at the meeting are also concerned about Duke Energy’s plans for coal ash ponds at its Riverbend Steam Plant when it closes in 2015.

Steadman Sugg with Duke Energy said the company is still looking at the issue.

“No formal decommissioning plan for the coal ash has been done,” Sugg said. “We are constantly looking at new federal rules.”

One issue that got a good deal of buzz was unpermitted buoys placed by individuals to mark areas such as private “no wake” zones. Sugg said the unpermitted buoys are a navigational hazard.

“It’s going to get worse as more people live on the lake,” he said.

Some of those issues have already been a problem, some said. As more people have taken to the lake for recreation, conflicts have sprung up due to the increasing number of boats, canoes and other watercrafts.

With 3,281 acres of surface water and 61 miles of shoreline, Mountain Island Lake has a number of federal, state and local rules and people to enforce them. But getting everyone to work together can be difficult.

Chad Brown serves on both the Mountain Island Marine Commission and the Gaston County Board of Commissioners. He suggested a way the marine commission could weigh in on several areas of regulation at once.

“We could act as consultants to the powers that be in Gaston, Lincoln and Mecklenburg counties,” Brown said. “Everybody has a stake in this.”

Marine commission member Jerry Campbell agreed with Brown.

“We all love the lake,” Campbell said. “It’s vital we come up with a plan to coordinate the various agencies.”

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