Duke Energy has awarded the S.C. Department of Natural Resources with grant money that will help equip the agency’s recently formed swift water rescue unit.

The $18,500 award, marked with a check presentation June 19, will help pay for wet and dry suits, PFDs, rafts, helmets and other equipment necessary for SCDNR officers to conduct water rescues at the Catawba River Recreational Rapids in Great Falls.

Duke Energy water rescue

Officers from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Division received an $18,500 grant from Duke Energy during a presentation in Great Falls on June 19. Tyson Blanton of Duke Energy, center behind check, and state Sen. Mike Fanning were on hand.

Officers in the rescue unit have undergone necessary training and equipment is already being purchased with the grant money. The gear needed for traversing the fast-moving rapids differs from what officers would use on other nearby bodies of water, such as Fishing Creek and Lake Wateree.

“It’s really to help us have a uniform, safe approach to anything that requires swift water rescue equipment or personnel to be able to have a successful operation and outcome,” said Lt. Brady Branham, who heads the rescue unit.

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Officers in the rescue unit received specialized training for four days on an upper stretch of the Catawba River, near Lake Wylie dam that included nighttime operations, rescue swimming, rescue boat operations and rope techniques.

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The grant was among the $500,000 awarded to governmental entities and nonprofit organizations throughout South Carolina as part of Duke’s Emergency Preparedness and Storm Resiliency Grant Program.

“Preparing communities to respond to severe weather impacts begins at the local level,” said Mike Callahan, Duke Energy’s South Carolina state president.

“We are committed to keeping South Carolina’s resiliency and economy strong. These grants will help provide fellow first responders with the tools and training to handle whatever Mother Nature throws our way.”

Duke Energy’s project to create rapids for paddlers is expected to be a draw for the Great Falls area, along with a new state park and area hiking trails.

“This whitewater experience is going to be a game-changer,” said state Sen. Mike Fanning, whose district includes Chester, York and Fairfield counties. “It can’t work if we don’t have ways of keeping people safe. Allowing SCDNR to do their jobs with the resources they need is going to be critical to helping this go long term.”

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