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Lake Julian: South Asheville’s new cold water lake

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Lake Julian | Photo by @cooloutdoorsyname

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As a (South) Asheville native, I spent many a childhood day at Lake Julian – picnicking, paddle boating, and field tripping, both in and out of school. I even learned to kayak there.

Now, this warm-water lake is about to undergo some big changes. The plant will be retired by Jan. 31, and the lake will no longer serve its original purpose – to cool water that supported the coal plant’s operations.

DYK: All coal plants require water. They create electricity when coal is burned in a boiler, producing steam. That steam, which is under high pressure, spins a generator to release electricity. After this, the steam is cooled (becoming water again), and then that water is cycled back through, starting the process over.

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Duke Energy’s smokestack at the Lake Julian coal plant | Photo by @cooloutdoorsyname

Here’s a little backstory on South Asheville’s most well-known lake –

  • Carolina Power & Light (CP&L), the power utility that preceded Duke Energy, built the lake in the 1960s.
  • In 2015, North Carolina’s General Assembly unanimously passed the Mountain Energy Act – which amended the earlier Coal Ash Management Act. This outlined requirements for coal ash cleanup and enabled the construction of a natural gas-fired plant to replace the former coal plant. Duke was ordered to close the coal plant by Jan. 2020.

What does that mean for the lake?

  • By late February, the water temperature will fall significantly.
  • Around 15-20% of the fish could die off because of this temperature change – like non-native tilapia, which survive best in warmer water. DYK: All fish in the lake come from N.C. Wildlife Hatcheries and are regularly tested for health + quality.
  • Ultimately, the lake will become a cold-water habitat – which means that native species (think bass, crappie, catfish + brim) will thrive.

Because of the expected ecological changes and die-off, Buncombe County Parks + Recreation is opening fishing access to the lake. During the transition period, no new fish will be stocked in the lake. And, local daily fishing permits will not be required until Feb. 29. An N.C. fishing license will still be required – find out how to get one here.

Duke Power will be working with natural resource agencies to monitor changes in the lake. Lake Julian Park is open to the public for recreation and no schedule changes are expected.

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