December 13, 2005

Do you hear the those Sleigh Bells Jingling??  It's the sound of Santa Clause coming to make Christmas a little brighter for 257 needy children and 14 families!!  MUCH brighter thanks to your generosity and the tireless efforts of the High Rock Lake River Rats Inc.  After combining the proceeds from their Thanksgiving Bash and the Christmas Fund Raiser on Sunday, the River Rats raised a little over $22,000 for the less fortunate children in Davidson County.  This evening the screening committee wrote checks totaling $22,341.86 to buy Christmas presents for the children and to cover various expenses for the families.  The checks will be delivered tomorrow along with nearly 600 new T-shirts donated by Alcoa as sponsors of Big Sweep during the past several years.  A huge THANK YOU goes out to Rusty Sloop, the Christmas Benefit chairman, and all of the River Rats members who beat the bushes for donations and worked countless hours to plan and execute the fund raiser for the 18th consecutive year.  Their efforts make the holidays a joyous time for many in Davidson County who would otherwise be financially unable to meet their ongoing living expenses and provide presents for their children.  As Rusty has repeated over and over again for many years, IT'S FOR THE KIDS!!  If you participated in the planning, collection and execution, donated items, or came to the Christmas Benefit with your heart and pocketbook wide open, you should be proud to be part of such a worthwhile event.    

December 1, 2005

The holiday season is upon us and as always, there are parties and celebrations everywhere.  It began with the River Rats Thanksgiving Bash and if you missed it, you missed a great party.  This weekend there will be a Christmas Light Flotilla on Saturday evening beginning near the back of Abbotts Creek and starting around 6:00 pm.  The boats will parade from there all the way to the Highway 8 bridge and end at the Boat Dock for a Chili cook-off.  Bring your favorite chili recipe, deck out your pontoon boat with a "Griswald" light display and come join the festivities of High Rock's "Redneck Yacht Club".  Then on December 11th come to the Boat Dock and help the High Rock Lake River Rats with their annual Christmas Fund Raiser.  With a silent auction, a live auction and plenty of food and beverages they will once again raise as much money as possible to help make it a Merry Christmas for those in need in Davidson County. Last year was their biggest year ever, raising over $26,000 on Sunday, and giving every bit of it and a little more away on the following Wednesday to insure that 236 children and 33 families had a Christmas to remember.  This is the River Rats BIG EVENT for the year and they need the help of everyone in the High Rock Lake area to make it a success.  They still need donations for the auctions so if you have any new items (they're TAX DEDUCTIBLE you know) you would like to contribute, get in touch with any River Rats member, E-mail us, or call Rusty Sloop at 250-1905.  Better yet, come to the meeting at 8:30 on Thursday the 8th and bring them with you or drop them by the Boat Dock on Friday evening or Saturday morning between 9 am and 3 pm.  Then come to the Fund Raiser on the 11th with joy and generosity in your heart - Remember, IT'S FOR THE KIDS!!  Admission is only $10 and an invitation is required, so if you need an invitation E-mail us and we will have one waiting for you at the door!

We said earlier that we would let you know when Alcoa posted the information about where you could send comments concerning their DRAFT License Application.  If you have taken the time to look through it you have probably realized that the lake operations section ( the part we all care MOST about ) appears at first to be a slight improvement over the past. If you look closely at the proposed operations for High Rock Lake and then look at the average water levels of the past, it is really little more than a proposal to continue operating High Rock just as they always have.  The defined "Recreation Season" is a little longer and the maximum allowable drawdowns are less severe but the numbers they are proposing are in reality almost a mirror image of what has actually happened at High Rock during most years in the past.  We are still in negotiations over lake operations as well as many other aspects of the License Application but it now appears there will NOT be an opportunity for the general public to comment on the License Application until it has been finalized and submitted to FERC in April 2006.  So much for the public having the opportunity to voice their opinions BEFORE it is officially submitted.  Aren't you surprised???  As one of YOUR Official Representatives in the negotiations process we think it is important for your input to be heard, so we have set up a E-mail address that you can send your comments to and we will take them with us to the upcoming negotiations meetings.  Send any comments you might have to Comments@SaveHighRockLake.org.

November 5, 2005

It looks like this weekend just may be THE weekend for that "Autumn Leaves" boat ride.  The weather is going to be fabulous, you can get under all of the bridges, and the trees are getting pretty colorful.  I would not recommend trying to go up the river with the water levels where they are unless you know that area REALLY well, but there is plenty of water in Flat Swamp and High Rock Mountain can provide a pretty good display when all of the conditions are right.  Sunday would be a great day for a little R&R and a scenic picnic on the boat.

October 10, 2005

If you live in the Abbotts Creek portion of High Rock Lake or enjoy recreation activities there, you might be interested in attending the meeting in High Point on Thursday evening. This meeting is to allow public comments concerning a Special Order by Consent (SOC 05-008) between the city of High Point and NCDWQ. This SOC defines specific deadlines and potential fines associated with missing those deadlines for the completion of various phases of construction of new outfall facilities at High Point's Eastside and Westside Waste Water Treatment Plants. This part of the SOC could be a good thing, giving NCDWQ additional leverage and the city of High Point additional incentive to fix the problems at these aging and inadequate facilities. Our biggest concerns, are the portions of the SOC that would allow High Point to accept 1 million gallons per day additional wastewater to the Westside collection system and wastewater treatment plant and a reduction of potential fines for violations that might occur while the SOC is in effect.

These plants have a long history of violations involving Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSO), limit and/or monitoring violations and Aquatic Toxicity Requirements violations. Representatives of NCDWQ have categorized the issues with these facilities as being "collection" problems, meaning they have experienced frequent and repetitive SSO problems in the delivery of the raw sewage to the treatment plants. These problems have resulted in numerous major spills of raw sewage into the creeks feeding into High Rock Lake.  The inadequacies are not a recent discovery and as with many environmental violations, businesses have historically found it less expensive to pay the fines than to fix the problems. There have been 10 documented violations at the Westside WWTP since March of 2003. The discharges from the Westside WWTP occur in tributaries of Abbotts Creek and eventually become a part of the water impounded in High Rock Lake. During some portions of the year, this water can have a residence time in High Rock Lake for close to two months, seriously impacting the water quality in Abbotts Creek. These violations combined with violations at Lexington's WWTP and numerous violations at Thomasville's Hamby Creek WWTP have been a significant factor leading up to NCDWQ declaring the Abbotts Creek arm of High Rock lake as "impaired". The addition of another 1 million gallons per day to the piping infrastructure coming to the Westside WWTP that is already known to be inadequate to handle the current load would encourage more frequent and severe spills of raw sewage into the tributaries of Abbotts Creek, with a written guarantee that fines for these violations will be reduced or even eliminated.


Sewage is a subject most of us would prefer to avoid, but if you are concerned about the environment, the habitat of fish and wildlife, or the quality of the water you swim and play in, you should consider attending the meeting and voicing your concerns. The meeting will be held Thursday, October 13, 2005, at 7:00pm:

City Council Chambers, 3rd Floor
211 South Hamilton Street
High Point, NC 27611

This is directly east of the largest of the buildings of the International Home Furnishings Market
 

October 5, 2005

The first DRAFT of the License Application APGI will send to FERC is now available for public scrutiny.  It contains all of the terms and conditions THEY wish to have included in the new license and their rational as to why they consider the terms to be justified and appropriate.  While Alcoa, the State and Federal agencies, and numerous stakeholder group representatives are still actively negotiating the terms of several elements of the application, unless/until an agreement in principal is reached, this is what will be submitted to FERC in April of 2006.  There is a 90 day comment period ending 1/4/06 for YOU to submit comments to Alcoa supporting or opposing any portion(s) of the Draft License Application.  These comments will then be included in the documentation sent to FERC for consideration while making their final decisions.  Keep in mind that in 1958 there were very few  official objections submitted to FERC during the licensing process so FERC "ASSUMED" there was little or no opposition to the terms being requested.  We all know how well those terms have actually worked during the last 47 years.  We will post periodic information highlighting areas of concern as soon as we have had a chance to review it thoroughly and document them.  For your reference, we have also updated our "Goals for Relicensing" to accurately reflect the combined goals of all of the organizations in the High Rock Lake Coalition.

As soon as the official link for submitting comments is available, we will post it here and add it to our "Relicensing" Page.  This is a pretty large document, so you might want to right click on the link above and then download it by choosing the "Save Target As" option to avoid long waits when opening it.

October 3, 2005

It appears we are about to get our first REAL test of the Drought Contingency Plan developed by Alcoa in 2002. According to the NC Division of Water Resources , a pretty large percentage of the Yadkin River basin is now classified as "D1 - Drought - Moderate", with one Public Water system in voluntary water conservation status. The inflow to High Rock has been between 25 and 50 percent below normal for quite some time now. With virtually no rain during the month of September (normally one of our wettest months) the prognosis does not look very promising. At this time, one of the four Drought Indicator Wells used by DWR to monitor drought conditions in the Yadkin River basin is reporting "Below the Monthly Mean"  This has caused a slight escalation
in the frequency of the Alcoa/Stakeholder conference calls outlined in the Drought Contingency Plan as indicated by the following posting on the Alcoa website.

On September 29th the majority of the Yadkin - Pee Dee River Basin area was classified as abnormally dry with more than 10% classified as D1 drought-moderate by the US Drought Monitor.

Accordingly, a conference call was held on September 29th, 2005 as outlined in Yadkin's Drought Contingency Plan. The following is a summary of the substance of the call.

Given the dry conditions in the eastern part of North Carolina and the potential for expansion westward into the Yadkin-Pee Dee basin, it was suggested that a call be held in two weeks to reassess conditions within the watershed. Should stream flow drop dramatically in the coming two weeks the parties will reconvene prior to October 13th.

Given present and predicted conditions, the Yadkin Project will continue operations in keeping with its operating guides.

The last paragraph is a little confusing since the "present and predicted conditions" appear to be "DRY" and "continued operations in keeping with its operating guide" can mean almost anything at this time of year. With High Rock almost 6 feed below full pond, NOW would appear to be the correct time to start being conservative. We all found out the last time the Drought Contingency Plan had to be activated that after High Rock Lake was dry, it was too late!! Actually most of us knew that WAY before the lake became a 15,000 acre mud hole. Only time will tell if the Drought Contingency Plan can really work, or if it is like the current "Operating Guide Rule Curve" and little more than corporate rhetoric designed to appease FERC while overseeing and enforcing the terms of their license.

September 29, 2005

Big Sweep at High Rock Lake has been cancelled again this year in the interest of participant safety and concerns of potential damage to the boats donated by area residents to transport the volunteers.  Dirk Swing, the Davidson County Big Sweep coordinator made the decision after surveying the areas needing the most cleaning and determined the potential for accidents was just too great at the current water levels.  Alcoa kept High Rock at 6 feet below full pond, the River Rats minimum level for holding Big Sweep at High Rock Lake, but beaching boats loaded with 12 volunteers into many of the very shallow areas and returning with the addition of hundreds of pounds of collected trash can be very tricky even for experienced boat operators.  Everyone is disappointed about the cancellation but understands safety must always come first.  Many area residents are discussing the possibilities of forming small private collection parties and at least cleaning up some of the worst areas without the liabilities associated with organizing and transporting the hundreds of volunteers who participate in Big Sweep at High Rock Lake. While these groups won't be eligible to win any of the money donated to the River Rats by the Alcoa Foundation to sponsor competitions and encourage High School and Civic groups to participate in Big Sweep at High Rock Lake, they might still accomplish the primary goal of cleaning North Carolina's important waterways on a smaller scale. 

September 15, 2005

Many of you have written and asked "Where is the water going and why was it drawn down right before Labor Day Weekend"?  We asked Alcoa on Sept. 2nd why it was being drawn down just before one of the biggest lake based recreation weekends of the year and got the following response.  "We had anticipated higher inflows from the hurricane that we didn't get, so we expect to be within 4 1/2 to 5' of full over the weekend."  Unfortunately for us, hurricane Katrina did exactly as every weather service predicted it would do and came nowhere near the Yadkin River basin.  This took High Rock down more than 4 feet.  Since then, it has pretty much been a case of supply and demand.  We are still in a period of the year where we can regularly experience days in the high 80s.  These days drive the demand for electricity (and the price) up.  Unfortunately, the current supply of water coming down the Yadkin River is nowhere near enough to generate the amount of electricity Alcoa's current license allows them to make.  To make up as much of the difference as possible, the water in High Rock Lake is being consumed.  Keep in mind that their goal is to keep as much water as possible available for use at the Badin Dam since they can make more than three times as much power there as they can at High Rock with the same amount of water.  There is somewhat of an additional generation bonus almost equal to the amount of power they can make at Badin in pushing that water to Badin for use there.  It has to go through two sets of generators to get there and another set below Badin once it is used.  The net effect is a significant generation "bonus" for drawing High Rock down during times of low river flows.  The end result is management of the Yadkin River basin for maximum power generation with little regard for recreation, wildlife or the environment.  The majority of the high quality fish habitat was identified in the relicensing studies as being in the top six feet at High Rock Lake.  Too bad for the fish that almost 100% of this habitat is now out of the water and totally unavailable to them.  It has not rained in weeks and as of today, we have officially been classified as being "Abnormally Dry".  Unfortunately the Drought Protocol developed in 2002 doesn't include much in the way of protection for High Rock Lake until things get much drier.  There has been no "shortage" of electricity that would justify sacrificing the consideration of all the other interests at High Rock. 

The bottom line is that nothing has changed yet.  Today is the last day that Rule 8 of the infamous Rule Curve (that is supposed to help keep the water levels at High Rock higher during the recreation season) is in effect and Alcoa's web site currently indicates that unless it rains we can expect High Rock to drop to -7 ft.  All of this is why SaveHighRockLake.org and the other organizations in the High Rock Lake Coalition are fighting to have the new license include management rules that truly protect the water levels at all of the lakes on a year round basis.  Our goals are to have limits established on lake levels that protect water quality, the environment, wildlife and recreation and realistically limits the amount of power that can be generated when river flows are below normal.

Here's just a few pictures with the lake only 4 feet down to give you an idea of how quickly things can change.  The fish habitat isn't fish habitat anymore, hazard markings need to change and yes, they are way out in the lake with their lounge chairs sitting on the bottom.

       

Be very careful if you go boating this weekend.  Many of the areas that are not hazardous when the lake is full may now contain numerous unmarked hazards that can severely damage your expensive watercraft and ruin your fun.  Also remember that diving into the lake in areas you are not positive are safe can be very dangerous.  If at all possible, move your pontoon boat to the very front of your pier and try to keep it floating.  If we can get just enough rain to keep the lake from continuing to drop, the River Rats will desperately need you and your boat to assist with Big Sweep on October 1st.  You can find details about Big Sweep as well as pre-register to participate on our EVENTS page.  This should give you some idea of how badly they will need everyone's help!

September 5, 2005

The High Rock Lake River Rats will once again be planning and coordinating Big Sweep at High Rock Lake on October 1st.  Help us keep our state's watersheds clean. Pollution in our watersheds destroys wildlife habitat and food sources, and it ruins many opportunities for recreation. Everyone suffers from harmful debris entangling boat motors, endangering wildlife, and tarnishing nature's beauty. This is your opportunity to give High Rock Lake a little TLC and help protect our favorite playground.

 

Thanks to a generous grant from the Alcoa Foundation to encourage environmental stewardship, the River Rats will be offering over $3,000 in prize money to various groups.  Hayes Jewelers will be giving away a Diamond Ring and everyone participating in Big Sweep will receive a FREE T-Shirt and Lunch.  Check out the River Rats web site for full details on all of the competitions and prizes.

 

As always, transporting the volunteers to the areas needing the most cleaning will be a challenge and this year we hope to have a record number of volunteers.  If you have a pontoon boat, please consider donating your boat and your time to help out with this VERY worthwhile effort.  All boats will be covered with heavy duty plastic and thoroughly cleaned afterwards.

 

You may Pre-Register HERE to participate in Big Sweep at High Rock Lake.  You will need to download the Release Form, fill it out and bring it with you that morning.  If you belong to a group or club that would like to participate in the competitions, just have them all pre-register online or download the Group Pre-Registration form and send it in.

 

Mark your calendars now and plan to donate one half of a day to protecting and preserving our environment!!

August 30, 2005

The BassMaster Tournament series held their second tournament of 2005 at High Rock Lake on Sunday the 28th.  Steve Sink of Winston Salem, who finished third in the July tournament, spanked the rest of the field weighing in a five fish limit of a whopping 22 lbs. 12 oz.   That was over 8 pounds more than the 13 lbs. 9 oz Dustin Clontz brought to the scales to clinch second place in the "Boater" category.  David Isenbarger of Goose Creek, SC (Steve Sink's partner) won first place in the "Non Boater" category with a limit of three fish that totaled 9 lbs. 4 oz.  Clyde Roberts of Marshall, NC brought the "fish everyone wants to catch" to the scales weighing 7 lbs. 5 oz. to win the Big Fish pot of $425  For their efforts Sink won $3,276, Clontz collected $1,638 and Isenbarger walked away with $1,575.  The tournament paid 16 places for a total of $17,378 and $625 for the Big Fish pots.  It was no big surprise that 11 of the top  16 finishers in the "Boater" category were "locals" living less than an hour away from High Rock Lake.  Sink proved that there are plenty of nice fish in High Rock if you just know where to look.  All of the fish weighed in from his boat averaged close to 4 lbs. each with the exception of the "hog" in his creel that topped 6 lbs.  Click on the links to find the full results of the "Boater" and "Non Boater" categories.  The Lexington Tourism Authority is already working on attracting more BassMaster Tournaments back to High Rock Lake in 2006. 

If you are planning to come and enjoy the Labor Day weekend at High Rock, keep in mind that the lake is now over 4 feet down and has been dropping daily.  This means you need to be especially careful in many areas.  Many of the marked hazards are now only inches below the surface.  There are now areas where unmarked rocks, stumps and humps may be less than 3 feet below the surface and could easily be struck by your boat.  There have also been incidents in the past where someone dived into the water from their boat and were critically injured because the water was only a couple of feet deep.  If you are not absolutely positive where you are and what is beneath you, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Check back next week for details about Big Sweep at High Rock Lake, scheduled this year for October 1.  Big Sweep had to be cancelled last year so we will need more help than ever to successfully clean up our playground.  There will be an especially big need for boats and drivers this year, so please consider volunteering your time and/or pontoon boat to transport volunteers to the remote areas that are in dire need of cleaning. 

July 19, 2005

You may have noticed that our Lake Level was not working today.  Turns out that Alcoa updated their Lake Levels Page which broke the "screen scraping" process we used to get that information.  When we went there to figure out how to fix our page, we discovered they have had their web developers busy adding some REALLY COOL stuff to the basic information they have provided for many years.  If you click on the word "High Rock" on the new default lake level page, it will display a page with a graph showing the hourly lake levels for the last 24 hours.  If you click on the words "Monthly View" at the bottom of the page, it displays a graph of the daily lake levels for the current month.  At the bottom of that page is a list box that lets you select a display of any months data from January 2000 to the present.  Both pages also include any special lake level messages they would like for you to know as well as any severe weather alerts and the impact the alert may have on lake levels.  If you click on the Icon that indicates if the lake is Rising, Falling or Steady on OUR Lake Info page, we'll open up their monthly lake level page in a new window for you.  They have also added a new "Lake Access" page that may be of interest to you.  It lists all of the recreation access areas on all of their lakes with basic information about each of the facilities.  Check out Alcoa's newly updated site to see all of the latest improvements.  They listened to what many of us told them and have made many of the pages much more useful and informative.  

July 7, 2005

If you somehow missed the fireworks displays that happened over the July 4th weekend, you may be in luck.  We have been told the fireworks at Tamarac Marina have been rescheduled for this Saturday, July 9th.

June 28, 2005

In case you had read that there were public relicensing meetings scheduled to begin this week, we received this message today from Alcoa clarifying the error.

"The Montgomery Herald mistakenly printed a schedule of 2004 public meetings dates in the June issue of Lake Life. There are no meetings scheduled for June / July 2005. The next series of public meetings regarding the relicensing of the Yadkin Project will be held in Fall 2005. "

We will be sure you know ALL about the public meetings coming this fall as soon as the scheduling is done!!
 

June 27, 2005

We are approaching the busiest weekend of the year at High Rock Lake.  Not only for boating traffic, but for local events as well.  We have updated the Events page with everything we know is going on, but there are sure to be more that we don't know about.  There will be an abundance of opportunities to view fireworks displays with a total of 4 different shows being planned on three different days.  The River Rats display promises to be bigger and better than ever.  With the sponsorships of Alcoa, Danbee Aerospace and Marine Tooling & Technology, along with an intense fund raising effort, they have raised and spent almost $15,000 to bring you a fireworks show you won't soon forget.  Keep in mind there will be a huge number of boats around each of the displays and the opportunity for accidents will be very high.  When the displays are over, don't be in a big rush to beat everyone else out of the area or someone will surely be hurt.

Along with the hoards of people coming to the lake to enjoy their favorite recreation activities, there will also be a very high law enforcement presence on and around the lake.  Along with increased Sheriff and Highway Patrol activities off the water checking for traffic violations and DWI enforcement, you can expect increased on the water patrols from the Sheriff's offices and the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.  For those of you who don't know, the Wildlife Officers are actually the most "powerful" law enforcement officers in the state.  They can write you a citation or arrest you for any violation of state law and their jurisdiction is ANYWHERE in the state of NC,  Just so you don't get the mistaken impression they might be lenient in enforcing boating violations we did a quick survey of the scheduled court appearances for Wildlife officers and the types of tickets they have been writing up until now.  Here's a quick sampling of what we found by officer and offense type just for Davidson and Rowan counties.

Officer Alcohol Drug Fishing Boating Litter Camping Access Area Free Text Traffic Total
Harrill 13 15 19 17 5 1 6 15   91
Tallent 11 14 10 8 2   1 13 5 64
Isley   3 15 4 2 2   2 2 30
Moore 1 6 11   1 2   2   23
Bullins 4   1 2 1     3   11

That's a total of 219 citations written on High Rock Lake up until now and does not reflect cases that have already gone to court.  Needless to say, they will be very busy over the next two weeks looking for all types of violations including DWI (cars and boats), improper equipment (lights, life jackets, fire extinguishers), No Wake violations, no fishing license, possession of undersize fish, littering, possession of drugs/drug paraphernalia, littering, illegal camping, etc. etc. etc.  Don't spoil your vacation by becoming a statistic or losing you privileges to drive a boat or a car by drinking and driving.  Have a designated driver on and off the water!!!

Have a safe and happy 4th of July celebration!!!

June 6, 2005

Several of you have asked about the new buoys that appeared in High Rock about a month ago and seem to be right in the deepest part of the lake?  These are not new "Hazard" warnings or "No Wake" zones.  According to Tony Butz of the NC Division of Water Quality, these buoys are makers for suspended temperature recorders that are continuously collecting water temperature information from the surface to the bottom as part of a DWQ study.  This study is part of their effort to determine how to improve the water quality in High Rock Lake.  Unfortunately, the best location for these sensors just happens to be in the exact same place you would want to be traveling in your boat to avoid underwater hazards.  These buoys will most likely remain where they are through the end of the year so make it a point to familiarize yourself with their location and make a mental note to try and avoid them.  We pointed out to DWQ that since some of them were in the preferred line of boating traffic there was a high probability they might get accidentally run over by someone, especially at night, and asked if there was some way to make them more visible.  They indicated they would attempt to locate some type of warning light to add to the top of the buoy, but until that happens, be sure you watch out for them.

You might also notice that there is a new Hazard warning buoy located on the point where Buddle Creek runs into Abbotts Creek (click on the map to enlarge).  If you are unfamiliar with the point where it is located, it is a VERY shallow point that becomes a real hazard when the lake is no more than 2 or 3 feet down.  Thanks to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission for installing the new warning buoy within a week after we asked them if they would consider adding one there.  With the lake at full pond, the buoy is only in about 4 feet of water where it is located now and should really probably be about 30 or 40 feet further out, so swing wide of it to be on the safe side.

The High Rock Lake River Rats 8th annual fireworks fundraiser was a great success and a LARGE time was had by all.  This years display will be at dusk on July 4th and promises to be one of the best ever.  This is not a inexpensive project by any means and without the help of their sponsors and everyone who bought one of the giveaway tickets, it just would not be possible.  This year Alcoa Power Generating Inc, Danbee Aerospace and Marine Tooling Technology stepped up to the plate with sponsorships that helped make it all possible.  They are trying to get one of the local radio stations to do a simulcast of the music played during the display so everyone enjoying the fireworks from their boats and cars can enjoy the show as it is intended.  If that can be worked out, we will update the events page to let you know where to tune your radio during the show.  Keep in mind that the lake will be VERY crowded that evening and there will be a significant law enforcement presence on the lake enforcing regulations (alcohol, lights, fire extinguishers, life jackets, reckless operation, etc.).  After the show don't get in a big hurry trying to beat everyone else to the bridge or you could end up with a ticket, involved in an accident or even running over that new buoy that's dead in your path to the Holloway Church Road bridge.  For more Fireworks information or if you would like to make a tax deductible contribution to the River Rats (who sponsor and organize Big Sweep at High Rock Lake as well as the July 4th fireworks) you can do so easily online at their WEB SITE.

According to the most recent e-mail we received, several of the bridges are already sporting new reflective markings on the beams to make them more visible.  The rest of the bridges should be completed by the end of the week.  The results of our "Bridge Lighting" survey have been sent to NCDOT and is being considered by their governing board.  Lets just hope they agree with the 96% of those completing the survey and vote in favor of adding the lighting.  We'll keep you posted.

May 26, 2005

The wheels of progress turn very slowly, but they have started to turn.  In 2003, one of the wettest years on record, the lake was very full much of the year and it became apparent that the very low bridges crossing over High Rock Lake presented somewhat of a "head banging" hazard.  We began talking to Alcoa about ways to make boating safer as you passed under the bridges, especially at night.  Today, I got an E-mail from them indicating that next week they would begin adding high visibility reflective markings to the bridges to help warn you of the potential hazard.  They are also sending the results of our "Bridge Lighting" survey to NCDOT and encouraging them to add lighting at both ends of the bridges to help improve visibility at night.  This could be good for motorist passing over the bridges as well as boaters passing under them.  Many thanks from our entire membership go out to Marshall Olson of APGI for working with us and making this happen.  Hopefully, this is just the first of many positive changes to come at High Rock Lake and is a good example of how working together CAN get things accomplished.  We were also hoping to get flashing lights added to the "No Wake" and "Hazard" buoys, similar to the ones I have been told existed at Smith Mountain Lake.  Unfortunately this is the jurisdiction of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and their most recent response was "NO", but they did not give a reason why.  I can only presume that cost was the primary factor in their decision.  Whatever the reason, we WILL ask again sometime in the near future. 

This weekend promises to be a perfect opportunity to go out and enjoy all of the recreational opportunities that High Rock and the other Yadkin Lakes have to offer.  Whether it is boating, fishing, camping, hiking or just picnicking, be sure you have charged all your batteries, checked all of your life jackets and fire extinguishers, pumped up your trailer tires and packed your trailer bearings.  Nothing is more frustrating than getting to the lake and THEN discovering your equipment is not in good working order.  Be SAFE and enjoy!!!!

May 13, 2005

We have spent hundreds of hours working to protect your rights in the relicensing of FERC Project 2197 and today WE NEED YOUR HELP!!!  We are only asking for about five minutes of your time, but they can be a very important five minutes. 

First, The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will consider the Energy Policy Act of 2005 starting as early as Tuesday, May 17. This bill would give private dam owners special status in determining how their dams are regulated to protect the environment and recreational uses on public rivers. The fate of rivers in your state blocked by hydropower dams (forming lakes like High Rock) is at stake. Your Senator serves on the Committee and must help ensure that all stakeholders are given an equal seat at the table. Your Senator needs to hear from you today.  American Rivers has set up a special web page that makes expressing your views to your Senator VERY easy.  Just click HERE and let your senator know how you feel.

Second, we have been working with Alcoa for almost two years to improve boating safety at the bridges that pass over High Rock Lake.  Alcoa has agreed to place high visibility warning markings on the beams of the bridges to help decrease the chances of someone hitting their head on the beams.  They also talked many times with the NC Department of Transportation about improving the visibility at and around the bridges at night.  NCDOT is considering placing Anti-glare street lights at both ends of the six bridges at High Rock to aide in locating the bridges at night and improve the visibility around the bridges.  This is similar to the idea of providing street lights on certain sections of the roadways to reduce the potential for automobile accidents and would help minimize the hazards of passing under the bridges at night.  It should also make the "No Wake" buoys much easier to locate and avoid running over them.  They have asked us to conduct a survey of the general public to ensure folks think it is a good idea before they spend the taxpayers money (about $1300 per year) to install and maintain the lighting.  Click HERE and complete our simple one question survey.

The recreation season is in full swing and there are lots of lake activities being planned.  Be sure and check our Lake Info or Events pages to see what activities are already planned.  We will update them as additional information is supplied to us.  You can also check the Boat Dock Beach Club calendar on those pages and keep up with special events and entertainment happening there.

The fifth Alcoa-Yadkin relicensing negotiation meeting was held in Badin, NC on May 4-5, 2005. The Catawba Indian Tribe was welcomed and presented its interest statement. Discussion centered on the Agreement in Principle (AIP) draft outline that will be used to capture agreements as they occur throughout the negotiation. In addition, the group reviewed draft performance criteria for OASIS model runs and viewed updated OASIS model runs. The next negotiations meeting will be in June 2005

Apr. 11, 2005

Alcoa-Yadkin hosted a settlement negotiations meeting with representatives from more than two dozen organizations on April 7 at the Alcoa Conference Center in Badin, NC.  The group accepted two new authorized representatives (Badin Museum, Catawba Indians) and two new participants (US EPA, Yadkin Pee Dee Relicensing Coalition). In preparation for negotiations, the group began discussion of a draft outline of agreements in principle.  In addition, the group reviewed a series of preliminary model runs that showed model capability and potential impacts of each run on water levels, energy generation and downstream water flows.  The group will hold its next meeting on May 5.

If you've been waiting for the fishing to pick up, NOW is the time to go.  The Crappie are biting good and the Bass are very FAT with eggs.  Please remember to bring your camera with you and practice "catch and release" if you catch a fish that hasn't spawned yet. 

Mar. 28, 2005

Relicensing activities are beginning to increase as all of the required studies are completed. We have actually entered the negotiations phase of the process and several changes have occurred. First, the number of people attending the meeting has increased considerably and many of the introductions begin with "our legal counsel", "our technical consultant" or similar descriptions. They are very serious about the environmental, social and economic changes they are there to lobby for. Second, the number of monthly meetings is on the rise. Alcoa would like to have a "Draft" license available for public comment in September 2005. This means there are MANY issues to be negotiated in the next five or six months. The only way to accomplish this is with a pretty aggressive meeting schedule. Third, the negotiations meetings are not open to the public and minutes of those meetings will not be published. All of the participants in the meetings had to sign the "Negotiations Protocol" before they would be allowed to participate in the negotiations. While this may seem overly restrictive at first glance, the intent is to allow us to accomplish our tasks without distractions in the short time frame we have to work in. The participants agreed to publish a summary of each negotiations meeting to let you know what progress is being made and which issues have been settled. We will publish these summaries as soon as they are available to keep you up to date. As soon as the "Draft" license is available, we will publish a summary of the proposed changes that are important to you. The entire draft will be available to anyone who would like a copy, but it will most likely be way to large to post on our web site. There will be public meetings held after the "Draft" license is released to give YOU a chance to offer your opinions on the changes that are being made.
 

Mar. 20, 2005

Spring is here and it's time to start getting your boats and fishing gear ready.  Be sure you charge up your batteries, pump up your trailer tires, check your trailer lights and check all of your required safety equipment before you get to the landing.  Life jackets must be in good condition and although there is no mention of it in the regulations, we have heard that fire extinguishers must be replaced after some number of years.  Even if it is not a requirement, it is probably a good idea to replace your fire extinguisher every 5 or 6 years.  That is one piece of equipment that you can not afford to have fail in the event you should need it.

The most recent Alcoa newsletter stated that "The winter drawdown phase at High Rock Lake has ended and lake levels should begin to rise steadily in anticipation of the spring recreation season."  The water temperature is starting to climb and will soon be approaching the range where some of the most popular game fish begin spawning.    Hopefully this means they will try to keep the lake from dropping significantly once the spawning season has started.  They also reminded lake residents that "No excavation work may occur from March June due to the potential impact on fish spawning."  We added a new table on the Lake Info page that lists the spawning temperatures for the most popular fish at High Rock so you can quickly check what kind of fish activity to expect before you get here.  Local fishermen have stated this years hatch of Shad seems to be great and there already appears to be an abundant supply of Shad to catch for bait.

Mar. 4, 2005

The third Yadkin Project Relicensing Settlement Negotiations Meeting was held on March 2 at the Alcoa Conference Center in Badin, NC.  At the meeting participants continued their preparation for substantive negotiations.  The participants approved additional authorized representatives and reviewed a consolidated outline of interest statements.  The group also set its meeting schedule for the rest of the year.  The group determined that it will begin negotiations by reviewing an outline of settlement issues to be discussed at the next meeting. 

Feb. 11, 2005

Howard's recovery is going very well and he should be coming home today.  At this time the doctors are very pleased with his rate of recovery and are optimistic he will have a full recovery.  He has regained a fair amount of the strength in his right side but the effects on his speech are still quite apparent, so he still has a long way to go.  He will have to continue physical and speech therapy for quite a while and will need to get regular checkups from his doctor.  A very special thanks to those who understand the plight Howard will be facing from this unfortunate incident and have generously offered to help financially and/or physically.  I know he will appreciate it more than you could ever know.

Feb. 7, 2005

Local High Rock Lake personality and good friend Howard Swicegood suffered a stroke on Sunday Morning and is recovering at Thomasville Medical Center.  At this time his condition is stable with weakness of his right side and some speech difficulties, but the long term effects are not yet known.  Howard is the President of the High Rock Lake River Rats Inc. and a SaveHighRockLake.org board member and is very active in many of the events at High Rock Lake.  He has been one of the key people in organizing the 4th of July Fireworks display enjoyed by thousands of Davidson County's residents for many years,  is a major proponent of Big Sweep at High Rock Lake and the annual River Rats Christmas Charity Benefit as well as being active in our efforts here at SaveHighRockLake.org.  These events have a huge impact on the lives of many of us at High Rock Lake and the surrounding communities.  He will face a challenging period of recovery and rehabilitation which will quickly become very expensive.  Unfortunately, like many who are self employed, he will be doing so without the help of funds from health insurance.  We are setting up a special fund to assist Howard with his mounting medical costs.  If you would like to contribute to this fund you can do so using the PayPal donation link on our website.  Simply enter "Howard Swicegood" in the "Payment For:" box on the PayPal donation screen or send a check via snail mail to PO Box 628, Southmont, NC  27351.     Please remember Howard in your thoughts and Prayers.

Jan. 12, 2005

Going Down!!  If you haven't already noticed, High Rock has been dropping pretty fast and if your boat is still in the water it's definitely time to make sure the motor is up so it won't get stuck in the mud.  Alcoa posted the following statement on their web site today.

High Rock Lake has enjoyed higher than normal water levels during the past several months thanks to a variety of conditions: above average stream flow with well-timed rainfall; relicensing studies requiring low stream flow downstream of Progress Energy's lakes; and maintenance items that required low stream flow at one of the Yadkin dams.

It is likely that High Rock Lake will begin to experience more typical (and much lower) water levels, depending on streamflow. To see typical water levels at High Rock Lake by month, click here for average lake levels since 1986.

Boat owners should closely monitor daily lake levels and consider removing their boats from the lake as the water level begins to drop.

They won't say exactly how far they intend to pull it down, but according to their historical data, the average Jan. drawdown is approximately 8 feet down.  With the average depth of High Rock being only about 16 feet, you can be sure there will be plenty of NEW and UNMARKED boating hazards to contend with if you decide to go boating, so be VERY careful!!!  If you aren't sure where the channel is and you don't have a good depth finder, you might want to consider buying one of the maps showing the depth contours before you venture out.

Jan. 4, 2005

If you haven't signed up for Alcoa's new monthly newsletter, you should click HERE and fill out the form.  This new monthly newsletter is Alcoa's latest attempt to improve their communication with the community concerning relicensing issues and general lake centric news.  This month's issue contained information about an issue near and dear to us at SaveHighRockLake.org.  As we mentioned last week, we have been talking with Alcoa for quite some time about improving the "visibility" of many of the bridges at High Rock.  When the lake is near full pond, several of the bridges pose a potential threat for head injuries. This month Alcoa announced they WOULD be installing reflective warning markers supplied by NCDOT to the bridges at High Rock Lake.  Hopefully these reflective markers will make navigation under the bridges, especially at night, a little safer for everyone.  We hope it will also make locating the bridge openings a little easier after dark.  The only thing we could have hoped for that we felt would make it even better would be to add flashing lights to the top of the "No Wake" buoys to make them highly visible so we wouldn't accidentally run over them at night.  Unfortunately that appears to be under the jurisdiction of the NCWRC and at this point in time they have officially responded that they would NOT consider it, but would not elaborate as to why.  I guess our only option to revive the issue will be in the "negotiations meetings" that are about to begin.  The good news is, we won't quit asking!!