Lake James Environmental Association (LJEA) was originally formed in 1973 to oppose the construction of a proposed waste water treatment plant designed to discharge three million gallons of treated sewage daily into the Catawba River just upstream of Lake James. As a result of our successful opposition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an environmental impact statement concluding that there was no technical justification for this location and denied the discharge permit. The plant was relocated to not discharge into Lake James.
Other activities supported and carried out during the past four decades include:
- Compiling years of water quality monitoring data, research, and studies done by a consortium of university teachers and students into a Lake James Watershed Assessment, published in 2018. This Watershed Assessment is the first step towards a more comprehensive Watershed Plan which would outline goals and the specific projects designed to help reach those goals.
- Monitoring discharge permits, visiting and monitoring existing treatment plants, attending public hearings on subjects impacting Lake James, participating in lake cleanups, and reporting violations to the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
- Participating on the Lake James Stakeholders Committee from Burke and McDowell counties to develop zoning ordinances regulating shoreline development. As a result of that committee action, both Burke and McDowell Counties adopted ordinances requiring riparian buffers along the lake shoreline and Burke County adopted a subdivision ordinance restricting future development around Lake James.
- Establishing and funding an academic grant to the University of North Carolina in Asheville, Environmental Quality Institute (EQI), to conduct long term research on the quality of stream water entering Lake James and on the water quality of the lake itself.
- Helping promote the acquisition of additional land to expand the Lake James State Park. An almost 3000 acre addition is under development by the NC Parks & Recreation Department and the first stage opened in the Fall of 2010.
- Monitoring and carefully assessing the issues involved in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Project No. 2232, relicensing of Duke Energy’s Catawba/Wateree hydroelectric plants and the approval of the Duke Energy Shoreline Management Plan and Maps. These are significant events that will largely determine the future of Lake James and the Catawba River for the next 30 to 50 years, depending upon the length of the new license. These issues impact all who use and enjoy Lake James.
- Submitting public comments regarding a proposed mining operation located above Lake James near a stream.