Mountain Island Lake
by Joli Reynolds, Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation
Latta Nature Preserve sits along several miles of Mountain Island Lake's shoreline. You may be familiar with its tranquil waters and quiet coves, but did you know that this little lake is part of a much larger watershed?
The Catawba River stretches 226 miles from the Blue Ridge Mountains through North and South Carolina to the Congaree River. Along its route there are eleven reservoirs including Lake James and Lake Norman. Mountain Island Lake is one of the smallest of these reservoirs and the most important to life here in Charlotte.
A Shared Resource
The water resources of the Catawba River provide the most essential services of civilization, including drinking water, electricity, and agriculture.
Just across from the nature preserve at Cattail trail, kayakers can paddle over to a large water intake. This pump station pulls water to be treated and distributed to the homes and businesses of over 2 million people in Mecklenburg and Gaston counties.
The electricity in our homes also relies on this lake, in part for the hydroelectric power generated at Cowans Ford and Mountain Island hydro plants, but also for the cooling water used at various coal and nuclear plants along the watershed, including McGuire nuclear station at Lake Norman, and formerly the coal station at Riverbend.
This shared resource requires protection and oversight to ensure there is enough clean water throughout the Catawba watershed for all communities, not just the biggest or the furthest upstream. To that effect, Mecklenburg County Government protects the water with the following activities:
Land acquisition & conservation: Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation manages seven nature preserve properties on and around Mountain Island Lake. The stewardship of these lands protects sensitive areas from development.
Storm water management: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services prevents, monitors, and manages runoff-related issues including non-point source pollution and flooding.
Prevention and mitigation of invasive species: Park & Recreation's Natural Resources team manages terrestrial invasive species on county properties, and public-private partnerships monitor and mitigate aquatic invasive species in the rivers and lakes of the Catawba-Wateree watershed.
Just as everyone relies on these resources, we all have a responsibility to protect them. Below are some actions that any resident or visitor can do to help protect Mountain Island Lake and our greater watershed:
Dispose of waste properly: Litter, yard waste, and lost fishing lines all contribute to pollution of our water. Be sure to clean up after yourself here at the preserve and at home!
Leave a shoreline buffer: If you are lucky enough to have a waterfront property or a stream in your backyard, keeping plants along the shoreline will help absorb any contaminants before they enter the drinking water. This includes pesticides, lawn care chemicals, animal waste, and sediment erosion.
Clean your gear to prevent invasive species transfer: paddlers and boaters should know that invasive species can hitchhike on their gear from one body of water to another! Be sure to check for any debris and clean your boat and trailer regularly to reduce the spread.
Be conservative with energy and water use: A renewable resource is not infinitely renewable. We must be conservative to make sure this resource continues to support the whole community along the watershed.
Enjoy it! Visit one of your nature preserves, go for a hike, fishing, or paddling on the lake and make the most of this shared resource!