LAKE WYLIE — Duke Energy has a message for owners of large, fixed inflatables on Lake Wylie. Enjoy them while you can.
Duke sent out a message Thursday saying shoreline management guidelines prohibit the use of “inflatable recreation equipment such as trampolines, slides and diving boards” on lakes the company manages, including Lake Wylie.
Duke said it will allow continued use of the equipment through Labor Day in September, but will then begin to issue violation notices.
“These large, secured inflatables can block navigational access and raise aesthetic objections,” said the notice.
Lake services staff on Duke lakes in the Carolinas have observed fewer than 50 items that would be prohibited. The rule doesn’t impact smaller inflatables or most towables.
“Water toys that are used primarily with moving watercraft, such as ski and inner tubes, and towables for three people or less, are permitted and are not affected by this notice,” the statement said.
The notice comes as peak season for the devices begins.
“This grace period will allow those who have already purchased inflatables to enjoy them through the 2014 recreational season,” it reads.
The change is part of a new hydroelectric re-licensing agreement worked toward by Duke and stakeholders to continue operating power plants on the Catawba.
Duke operates on its old license as the company awaits final federal approval but has implemented several changes mandated by the new one, like drought response and water management.
Lisa Hoffmann, spokeswoman for Duke, didn’t say what penalty might be assessed for violations after Labor Day.
She said that lake services staff “generally don’t have problems” with compliance once they issue notices. The inflatables rule, like anything else with the re-licensing, came with considerable stakeholder input and support, she said.
“That’s how they became part of the guidelines,” Hoffmann said.
A search of the online store at West Marine, which has a location in Steele Creek, shows about 30 slides, trampolines and towables seating more than three riders. They range from a slide at a little more than $400 to a $4,500 trampoline.
Nick Cumbie, manager at West Marine in Steele Creek, said Thursday the few biggest ticket items make up a relatively small portion of sales.
“You’ve got to have a lakehouse. You’ve got to have room for it. And they’re expensive,” he said.
Most of what his store sells are the $400 or so bouncing inflatables or slides, which aren’t fixed to the lake bed and can be pulled to and from the nearest beach for use. He’s hopeful homeowners can still use the smaller inflatables and remove them afterward to avoid problems.
“It’s a bummer,” Cumbie said of larger, fixed inflatables. “I wish there was an area where you could still have them, but I understand it.”
Camp Thunderbird has five anchored inflatables, including a trampoline and pyramid-style tower. Camp has to budget for the larger ticket items every few years as they get extensive use each summer and need replacement.
“They are incredibly popular,” said Jill Moore, executive director of Camp Thunderbird.
On Friday, Moore said camp is still looking into the regulation.
“We just found out yesterday and have many questions,” Moore said. “We aren’t sure how it applies to us yet.”
Duke’s re-licensing application came due in 2008. Despite a lack of final approval, Hoffmann said the rule is in place and technically isn’t new.
“We’re realizing people needed a reminder,” she said.
In the past half dozen years, Cumbie saw the rise and fall of flying inflatables. Popular for whipping riders into the air, they were banned several years back due to safety concerns. Cumbie sees how fixed inflatables on Lake Wylie, with its narrow coves, could be a navigational or safety issue.
His response – there are plenty more lake toys for people to try.
“We sell things for people to go out on the lake and have fun, and we want people to go out and have fun, but not at the expense of safety,” Cumbie said.
John Marks • 803-831-8166