New River Jet Boats owner cancels season after learning of plans to drain Hawks Nest Lake for dam repair

FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – The beloved New River Jet Boat will not be hitting the water in 2020. But before you blame it all on COVID-19, new owner Bobby Bower says they are now facing a much bigger obstacle. 

“The new, biggest challenge is Brookfield Renewable Power that owns Hawks Nest Dam is undergoing a project where they’re draining Hawks Nest Lake up to 23 feet for at least two months,” he said. “So that’s forced us off the water for 2020, the final nail in the coffin so to speak.” 

Brookfield Renewable Power wants to repair the dam that they use to create hydro power at their plant just outside of Gauley Bridge.

In order to do this, they must drain the Hawks Nest Lake. Since taking over the jet boat business in March, Bower’s heard rumors that the company would only drain in the single digits.

He says he has been left in the dark holding off his season wondering what was happening up until yesterday when he received the message that the company would drain 23 feet beginning September 9. 

“I think the people of West Virginia deserve to know that they’re going to lose a really cool fishery and a really neat recreation area,” Bower said. “And it’s hard to plan on doing business when you don’t have good information from the utility.” 

According to Brookfield, they are still finalizing the plans before they release to the public but wanted to give their stakeholders a heads up.

Not only is Bower concerned about how long the project could possibly take, he is worried about where the fish are going to go and the pollutants that could be washed downstream if it rains in the dried up lake.

As a business owner in these uncertain times where the uncertainty for him has now been doubled, Bower is trying to look ahead. 

“We’re going to try to stay positive. It’s a super cool attraction, brings lots of people into the state from all over the world,” Bower said. “And we’ll be back. We just have to find some water to run on.” 

Brookfield plans to release their full plans to the public in the coming weeks.

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Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.