Commissioners pass motion seeking assistance from state regarding Tillery water levels

Published 9:23 am Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Stanly County Commissioners are looking for help from state legislators to identify strategies to deal with the lake level fluctuation along Lake Tillery.

County Manager Andy Lucas and Commissioner Bill Lawhon met with Stanly’s legislators about the rising Tillery lake levels.

“I’ve probably had 200 emails over this issue,” said N.C. Rep. Wayne Sasser (R-Stanly), who owns property on Lake Tillery.

The main issue is that a large amount of debris, such as stumps, logs and branches, is being pulled into the lake because of the rising water levels.

“I’ve always had concerns about the water level,” Vice Chairman Ashley Morgan said during a recent commissioner meeting.

Lake Tillery is a hydroelectric project reservoir owned and operated by Duke Energy.

In 2018, Duke Energy provided notice to residents along Lake Tillery that lake levels may fluctuate 2.5 feet below full pond on weekdays and 1.5 feet on weekends and holidays, according to information the commissioners presented Monday night.

In the past several months the water level fluctuations have appeared to be more significant and frequent than Duke predicted.

Morgan questioned why Duke Energy changes with the water levels during weekends and holidays when the most people will be out on the lake.

“Why are they (Duke Energy) doing it on our busiest holiday weekends related to traffic?” Morgan said.

Lawhon, who lives on the lake, was concerned for the recreational skiers and tubers.

“There’s so much debris in that water because they’re raising it up after it’s been lowered by two-plus feet and all it’s doing is washing the debris back into the water,” he said.

Lawhon told his grandchildren to be careful after they went tubing on the lake.

Much of the debris is barely under the water, he said. Lawhon worries a water skier will hit the debris and “get hurt seriously or even killed.”

“It really concerns me with recreation going on in our lakes,” Lawhon added.

Sharon Draper lives by the lake in Troy and is also concerned.

“We live at the entrance of Big Island Creek and due to the low water level (topography of lake) we have a small path to deeper water when we go out on the lake,” she wrote in an email to Sasser obtained by The Stanly News & Press. “Therefore we and our neighbors are unable to enjoy the lake if the water level is lowered 2.5 feet or greater.”

“We understand the concerns of residents who live on Lake Tillery who have seen more variation in the lake levels over the past few years, and are committed to improving communications with our lake neighbors,” said Duke Energy spokesperson Kim Crawford.

Crawford added that because last year and this year have been very wet “Duke Energy’s Hydro Operations, in compliance with our federal operating license, has had to lower the lake more frequently before storm events to create storage for higher inflows. Lake level changes are more noticeable during very wet and very dry periods.”

Sasser said he and Sen. Tom McInnis, who also owns property on Tillery and is a former senator for Stanly, had a conference call with a Duke Energy legislative liaison to relay their concerns about the water levels.

The Norwood Town Council met with Duke Energy during its Monday meeting. Roughly 200 people were in attendance and several people spoke during a public hearing and asked questions to Duke Energy officials.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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