WCU, Duke Energy to improve river access on Tuck

Western Carolina University is leasing a parcel of land near a dam on the Tuckaseigee River near the back entrance of campus to Duke Energy, which plans to upgrade a public recreation area and improve river access for kayakers and canoeists.

Western’s Board of Trustees approved a 30-year lease with Duke for the university-owned parcel, and endorsed a plan transferring to Duke an occupancy agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority that allows WCU to use an adjacent parcel owned by TVA. The board action came during its quarterly meeting Friday, June 1.

Currently, TVA owns the parcel of land above the Cullowhee dam, and the university owns the parcel below the dam. Boaters using that stretch of river must get out of the river on the TVA land, portage around the dam, and then get back into the water from university property.

“As part of the relicensing of hydroelectric projects by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Duke Energy is proposing numerous improvements to existing public recreation facilities, including public canoe and kayak access provided by the university and TVA on the Tuckaseigee,” Chuck Wooten, WCU’s vice chancellor for administration and finance, said in presenting the proposal to the trustees.

Duke’s plans call for improvements to the take-out facility on the TVA parcel upstream of the dam, enhancements to the main entrance to the site, construction of additional parking, improvements to the put-in facility on the WCU parcel downstream of the dam, and the addition of landscaping.

“Duke has committed to do all of this at their expense, and to maintain the facility for the life of the relicensing agreement, which is anticipated to be 30 years,” Wooten said. “We think this would be a real improvement to this site and would be of tremendous benefit to community residents, and to our students, faculty and staff.”