As Duke Energy’s Lake Julian coal-fired plant shutdown approaches, Buncombe County would like to make the public aware that we do anticipate changes to the ecology of the lake once the coal plant goes offline. Lake Julian was built in the early 1960s by Carolina Power & Light, a predecessor of Duke Energy, for the sole purpose of providing cooling water to support the operation of the coal-fired power plant. Warm water would be discharged from the coal plant and cooled in Lake Julian, resulting in warmer temperatures throughout the lake. In 2015, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Mountain Energy Act. The act enabled the construction of a natural gas-fired operation and ordered the retirement of the Asheville coal plant by Jan. 31, 2020.
Buncombe Recreation Services manages Lake Julian Park, a public lake park that offers fishing, picnic areas, disc golf, outdoor games, a playground, paddleboats, special event venue rentals, and water access along the picturesque 300-acre Lake Julian. We have been in conversation with Duke, North Carolina Department Environmental Quality, and the NC Wildlife Resources Commission in an effort to understand the impact, anticipated changes, and any other measures Duke Energy expects to put in place. Our first concern is the safety of our community as they use Recreation Services’ public park located on the shores of Lake Julian. At this time, we do not anticipate that ecological changes to the lake will have any safety impacts or issues for park users.
What to Expect
Here is what we do know. We expect that by the end of February, discontinuing warm-water releases into Lake Julian will return the lake to a more natural, cold-water habitat, where North Carolina native fish such as bass, catfish, brim, and crappie can thrive. However, this transition will impact non-native species like tilapia, who cannot adapt to the colder conditions of the lake going forward. We expect that 15-20 percent of the total fish population at Lake Julian may die. Duke Energy has assured County staff that they will coordinate with natural resource agencies to monitor and respond, if necessary, to impacts from changing conditions in the lake. This includes removing fish from the lake if needed.
We do not anticipate any changes to fishing access at this time, and there are currently no plans to add new fish to Lake Julian. During this transition, a local daily fishing permit will not be needed as the lake will not be stocked at its normal level by the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission. However, a North Carolina Fishing License is still required. Water quality and fish tissue samples will still be monitored during this time to ensure all fish are healthy for consumption, and we are confident native species will continue to flourish throughout the lake in a more natural cold-water habitat.