Media Contact: Geoff Cantrell, Public Information Officer
RALEIGH, N.C. (July 7, 2010) – In action today, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission unanimously endorsed a letter from Chairman Steve Windham to the Mountain Island Lake Marine Commission strongly opposing a lake management plan that would sharply limit boats and boater access.
Mountain Island Lake Marine Commission proposes a ban of boats longer than 22 feet and pontoon boats longer than 26 feet. Boaters also would have to purchase either an annual or one-day permit to access the lake.
“This proposal raises profound concerns about the ability of citizens to utilize a public trust resource,” said Gordon Myers, executive director of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “Consider that public trust rights are for the use and benefit of the people – and include the right to navigate, swim, hunt, fish and enjoy all recreational activities in the watercourses of North Carolina. The waters of the Catawba River, of which Mountain Island Lake is a part, are public and the right of access by the public is based on clear and unambiguous law.”
The letter of opposition will be personally delivered tonight by Myers at a 6:30 p.m. public meeting in Lincoln County at Cowan’s Ford Country Club, located 761 Club Drive, Stanley.
The lake management proposal lists justification for the limited access and vessel size restrictions as being in the interest of “public safety and water quality,” both of which are refuted by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
The letter states that the most effective and fair way to provide public safety on waterways is through safe and proper boat operation. Data from Mountain Island Lake bears this out. From 2005-’09, 12 boats were involved in accidents there. None of the accidents would have been prevented by the proposed rules concerning vessel size.
The letter further states that water quality issues at Mountain Island Lake, as monitored by the N.C. Division of Water Quality, are not related to boat use but likely linked to human activity in tributary watersheds.
Mountain Island Lake was built in 1924 with the construction of Mountain Island Hydroelectric Station. The lake covers 3,281 acres, has 61 miles of shoreline and provides a dependable water supply for Mount Holly, Gastonia and Charlotte-Mecklenburg communities.