GREAT FALL, S.C. (CN2 NEWS) – The town of Great Falls in Chester County fell on hard times after textile mills closed many years ago, but now new life is being born – using the natural resources the community has to offer on the Catawba River.
As part of Duke Energy’s re-licensing of the Catawba River, it will expand the body of water to provide safe recreational use through white-water rapids, kayaking and more – as well as fish and wildlife habitat protection in the Great Falls Reservoir.
In 2015 leaders with Duke Energy say it received a new license for the Catawba-Wateree Project which includes the Great Falls-Dearborn Development.
Duke Energy says the license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission provides enhancements to water quality, quantity, recreation, land conservations as well as fish and wildlife habitat protection.
In the quiet town of Great falls – lies the potential for many outdoor adventures.
Tim Huffman, Senior Project manager with Duke Energy is seeing those potential attractions come to life through Duke Energy’s Great Falls- Dearborn Diversion Project on the Catawba River.
“There is two hydro dams built down on this end Great Falls Reservoir -Great Falls was the original one in 1906 then in the early 20’s they built Dearborn when demand for electricity had increased in the area due to the textile manufacturing”, says Huffman.
Now more than 100 Years later through a license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory commission Duke Energy is working to put water back into the channels of the river to bring recreation like white water rapids, kayaking and canoeing to life.
“This will be a Class 4 Whitewater resource which is for experts”, says Huffman.
Huffman took us on a tour of the construction in progress at the Short Bypass Reach. Huffman says controlled gates will be installed to make the releases in the channels.
About a mile and a half upstream is the Long Bypass Reach where tourist can make the choice to try Class 2 and 3 rapids. Water enthusiasts will be able to access the bypass channels at the Nitrolee Access Area.
At the Nitrolee Access Area there will be restrooms and parking. There will also be a historic interpretive center about the remains of the original Arc building that was part of the Nitrolee plant in the early 1900’s.
There’s more. Duke Energy will also provide funding to the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism to develop a state park on Dearborn Island.
A pedestrian bridge will also be built to the island from the Great Falls canoe and kayak launch. As well as trails on the island and along the bridge.
Duke Energy leaders say this site will be connected to the lower Great Falls sites by the Carolina Thread Trail.
Chester County Councilman for District 2, Mike Vaughn says in 15 Years those who come to his town will not recognize it.
The old Belk historic building on Dearborn Street is set to be a visitor center.
Vaughn says some buildings have been sold and plans are in the works to bring businesses to the area through the final product on the river.
“Great Falls is unique and the more people discover that and tell other people, I see a great change coming here”, Vaughn says.
“Long before me, people were working in Great Falls. People like Dr. Speedy Starnes who was the mayor here and my mother who was on the board of the hometown association. They started this work 20 – 25 years ago and talking about nature – based tourism, how important it is to Great Falls. All of that work is coming to fruition and now. Its tremendously exciting”, says Vaughn.
Vaughn adds he and others in the community are working hard to make sure Great Falls is in a good position for what’s coming.
Duke Energy leader say the project is approximately $70 Million Dollars.
The projects are currently planned to be completed within the next two years.