Residents caught off guard after lake level lowered: 'This is horrendous'

CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. — Duke Energy has lowered levels on Lake Hickory in Catawba and Alexander counties for weeks to make repairs to the Oxford Dam, but some residents found out too late to move their boats to deeper water.

Some homeowners said the lake is down more than 5 feet behind their homes.

Carol McConnell’s boats are now on a muddy bank after Duke Energy dropped the lake level at her home on Lake Hickory.

"This is horrendous," she said. “I would have appreciated knowing (the water) would be (lowered.) I had no idea it would be like this."

Across the lake, Wes Bolick could barely move his pontoon boat in Alexander County after the water began dropping last month.

"This is the lowest I have seen it,” Bolick said. “Most of the time, I have 6 feet of water and now it’s 14 to 15 inches."

Several miles away at the Lakeside Marina, it's difficult to get the boats in the water. Some of those who have ventured out have returned with broken propellers.

"You have to be careful when you're on the water,” Roger Moore, with the marina, said. “It can be a problem. People have already damaged props this spring."

Duke Energy officials said they are installing a minimum-flow gate at the dam and lowered the lake to 94.5 feet to ensure worker safety, changes required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. For those who live on the lake, they understand the need for maintenance on a dam built nearly 90 years old.

"I'm not that much of a fisherman,” Bolick said. “I'm satisfied. I'd rather have a good dam."

Duke Energy also posted information about lake levels and any future changes. They hope to have the $2.5 million project completed by the end of the month.

Read more top trending stories on