The Stanly County Board of Commissioners (www.co.stanly.nc.us) is commending Davidson County Commissioners Max Walser and Cathy Dunn for their recent letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Secretary Kimberly Bose informing her that Alcoa Power Generating, Inc. ("Alcoa") has falsely claimed ownership of High Rock Lake in its application to monopolize control of the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project and recommended that Alcoa should not receive another 50-year license. The letter, dated Sept. 21, informed FERC that despite misinformation to the group and the public, some HRLA members are against Alcoa’s bid to oversee the Project, which includes dams and powerhouses along a 38-mile stretch of the Yadkin River at High Rock, Tuckertown, Narrows and Falls Reservoirs in Davie, Davidson, Rowan, Montgomery and Stanly counties.
"All 1,500 members of the Association are not solidly behind Alcoa and all do not support its relicensing," Walser wrote in the letter. He later added that in regard to the future of the Project, "North Carolina citizens deserve a better deal, and perhaps the only way to get such a better deal is for the state to become the license holder of the project that uses the Yadkin River’s waters."
Walser wrote the letter as his personal view and not that of the Davidson County Board of Commissioners, although the commissioners voted unanimously in March 2008 to request the governor of North Carolina intervene and oppose Alcoa’s relicensing attempt. Gov. Bev Perdue has taken the lead in that request, and as a result Alcoa is facing an effort by the governor for the State of North Carolina to receive FERC approval to begin the process of recapturing its water rights for the Project, in light of Alcoa’s poor environmental and economic development record.
Walser’s stance differs from HRLA President Larry Jones, who until 2007 had been a vocal critic of Alcoa’s treatment of the lake for years, in terms of water quality and the amount of water it withdrew during droughts. In 2003 he wrote to FERC urging the group to reject Alcoa’s proposed Drought Contingency Plan by noting that "FERC must act to prevent further devastation, to protect the environment, fish and wildlife, protect recreational opportunities upon our lake, and protect stream flow conditions in the Yadkin-Pee Dee River." Four years later, he performed an about-face and encouraged HRLA to become a signatory for Alcoa’s Relicensing Settlement Agreement (RSA) in support of the firm’s plans for improvements should it receive a 50-year license from FERC.
Since supporting the RSA, Jones has read the state’s legislation and attended every legislative hearing speaking in support of Alcoa. He does so despite knowing that the state is committed to providing HRLA everything Alcoa has promised, including a comprehensive drought management plan (the "Low Inflow Protocol") and new and expanded public recreation facilities, plus more benefits to North Carolina state residents than Alcoa. This would include priority consideration to local needs, with the intent of restoring and improving environmental, public health, economic and job considerations.
HRLA members siding with Alcoa have heard as well the reports that:
- Alcoa is responsible for the cancer-causing PCBs found in Badin Lake, part of the Narrows reservoir;
- Alcoa protested vigorously having to install signs announcing a fish consumption advisory at the lake because of PCBs being found there;
- Alcoa has contested the terms of the 401 Water Quality Certification the state issued it;
- A judge ruled there was enough evidence to delay issuing that certification because several opponents including the Stanly County Commissioners believed it should not be issued to Alcoa in light of PCBs and other contamination found at the Project; and
- Alcoa petitioned FERC unsuccessfully to win its license without having to obey the condition of a getting a WQC from North Carolina, which would have allowed it to avoid following regulations of the Clean Water Act.
Nonetheless, those HRLA members remain committed in public to Alcoa’s efforts to exploit the Project for its bottom line over the needs of North Carolinians, even though the multinational corporation has virtually no other ties to the state and will offer HRLA fewer benefits than what the state promises. Walser’s letter made clear that his position is not supported by all of HRLA, however, and the group may reconsider its support for Alcoa, as some of the other RSA signatories have signaled they are doing in light of Alcoa’s actions (or lack thereof) since 2007.
If Alcoa receives the license, it will have an exclusive monopoly on water rights to conduct hydroelectric operations on the Yadkin River for another 50 years, and the opportunity to make many millions in profits selling electricity generated from waters belonging to North Carolina citizens. Unlike other companies that generate electricity in North Carolina, Alcoa is not regulated by the N.C. Utilities Commission, and sells its electricity on the wholesale market rather than to N.C. customers.
The Stanly County Board of Commissioners have been strong opponents of allowing Alcoa to continue its monopoly of the Project because of Alcoa’s poor environmental history with its operation on the Yadkin River, the abandonment of operations by Alcoa at the Badin Works with its related loss of 1,000 jobs and the right of the people to control the water that belongs to them.
"We sincerely appreciate the letters signed by Commissioners Dunn and Walser to clarify that Alcoa does not have full backing from the High Rock Lake Association, nor does it own the lake," said Stanly County Commissioner Lindsey Dunevant. "We know there is deep resistance among HRLA members about supporting Alcoa, as more information on its environmental misdeeds has come to light since the group signed the RSA two years ago. We encourage all members to review their stance carefully and decide this: Does the HRLA really want to be on record for favoring an out-of-state firm that clearly puts profit above everything else and has spent years disrespecting the water withdrawn from the lake as well as improving the water quality?"
About This Effort:
In 1958, Alcoa, the world’s leading producer of primary aluminum, secured a federal hydroelectric license for the Yadkin Project on the Yadkin River in Stanly, Davidson, Montgomery and Rowan Counties in the Central Piedmont. In return, Alcoa promised aluminum manufacturing jobs for Stanly County for years to come. Alcoa has now essentially disappeared as a major employer in the region and shut down its manufacturing plants, but it wants to continue reaping the benefits of the Yadkin River after its license expires in April of this year. In addition, Alcoa discharged hazardous pollutants into North Carolina air and waterways for decades while harvesting immense profits from the Yadkin River, but has yet to finish cleaning up that contamination. It has filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to obtain another 50-year license. If Alcoa is successful, one of North Carolina’s most valuable water resources will be used to maximize Alcoa’s profits, instead of being used to benefit the people of North Carolina, who themselves are in dire need of affordable electricity, local economic development, and clean, adequate drinking water.
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