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Published Thursday, May 24, 2001
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Crescent donates rights to buffers

Easements bar development along Catawba streams



Crescent Resources began making good Wednesday on a year-old pledge to protect streams in the Catawba River basin, donating conservation easements totaling 320 acres in both Carolinas.

Crescent, the land and development arm of Duke Energy, owns about 200,000 acres in the Carolinas. Last May, the company said it would protect nearly 200 miles of streams, which wash silt and other pollutants into the Catawba and its lakes, with buffers.

The first of those, the company said, will cover 150 acres on Catawba Creek in Gaston County and 170 acres next to Landsford Canal State Park on the Catawba in Chester County, S.C.

Easements prohibiting development will be signed with the Catawba Lands Conservancy for the N.C. tract and the Katawba Valley Land Trust in South Carolina.

The Catawba Creek property is a mix of forest and wetlands, good habitat for ducks and other migratory birds, near Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont. It is the first tract the Catawba Lands Conservancy has protected on Catawba Creek, which drains to upper Lake Wylie.

Landsford Canal, about 30 miles south of central Charlotte, has deep historic and biological roots. The namesake canal dates to the early 1800s. Now blooming in the river is North America's largest colony of a rare wildflower, the white Rocky Shoals spider lily.

Both tracts are much wider than the 50-foot minimum buffer Crescent promised. Environmental affairs director Carla DuPuy said Crescent probably will protect more large properties if state governments mandate stream buffers in the basin, duplicating Crescent's commitment.

Earlier this month, the N.C. Environmental Management Commission imposed 50-foot buffers on the Catawba's main stem and the shorelines of seven lakes from James to Wylie.

In South Carolina, York and Chester counties already require buffers on the Catawba. An advisory committee has recommended that buffers be protected on waterways statewide.

The Landsford easement, which has a dense mix of hardwood trees, is large enough to shelter a variety of migrating birds, said Katawba Valley President Lindsay Pettus.

"This is the type of easement that will go a long way toward protecting water quality for thousands of people in the basin," Pettus said. The trust is trying to raise $2.3 million by the end of the year to expand the park by buying 1,049 more acres from Crescent.

DuPuy said Crescent will rely increasingly on land trust organizations, which are most familiar with local properties, to identify other places to protect. She said Crescent expects to spend about five years fulfilling its commitment.

"I'm just hoping the land trusts and individuals understand that they can come to us," to nominate tracts, she said.

Crescent has committed $500,000 to pay for land surveys and other costs of landowners who agreed to protect streamside property in the basin. The money would be enough to buffer an additional 100 miles of river and streams, the company said.

Crescent's buffer pledge helped Duke Energy win a national conservation award last month from the National Wildlife Federation.

Reach Bruce Henderson at (704) 358-5051 or

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