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Stanly officials, Alcoa see vote on Yadkin River a little differently

Staff report
The N.C. House Water Resources and Infrastructure Committee’s vote Tuesday not to transfer Senate Bill 967 out of committee will give it more time to study the proposal for a Yadkin River Trust.
So says the Stanly County Board of Commissioners.
The House committee voted 8-6 not to move the bill, aimed at having the state take over the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project and Alcoa Power Generating Co.’s dams, powerhouses and other facilities on the river.
A motion to move the bill out of the committee failed by an 8-6 margin.
Alcoa viewed Tuesday’s vote as a victory in its effort to obtain a new federal license for the project.
Stanly officials say the committee simply preserved the ability to conduct further hearings and ultimately send the legislation to the full House for a vote.
Gov. Bev Perdue has asked and received the chance to present the state’s case against Alcoa before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission makes a final ruling on the relicensing.
“On behalf of my board, I want to thank our state representatives for continuing to consider this bold measure to recapture our state’s water rights for the Yadkin River,” said Stanly County Commissioner Lindsey Dunevant.
“Once again, we had support from both Republicans and Democrats on the committee, showing that the issue has bipartisan appeal. They understand the huge positive improvement the Yadkin River Trust will provide the state economically and environmentally.”
The legislation would create a Yadkin River Trust to develop, sell and distribute power generated by the hydroelectric project, which takes in a 38-mile stretch of the Yadkin River and includes the High Rock, Tuckertown, Narrows and Falls Reservoirs in Davie, Davidson, Rowan, Montgomery and Stanly counties.
On May 6, the N.C. Senate approved the bill by a 44-4 vote.
On Tuesday, supporters of the bill said Alcoa failed to employ 1,000 workers in Stanly County as promised for the term of the first 50-year license it received in 1958.
The company’s smelter in Badin ended operation in 2002.
Bill supporters also said Alcoa was exempt from being regulated by the N.C. Utilities Commission, meaning it can sell the hydroelectricity generated by its dams wherever it wants at whatever cost it can obtain.
They warned that Alcoa could sell its license for profit to any entity, even foreign firms, and the terms of that license would remain in effect without FERC review for the duration of the 50 years it was issued.
State and local representatives also have voiced concerns about Alcoa’s environmental track record with the project.
The bill would establish a seven-member board of directors appointed by the governor and confirmed by the General Assembly to oversee the Yadkin River Trust and carry out its goals and activities.
The N.C. Property Rights Coalition hailed the committee vote Tuesday.
“On behalf of property owners all across North Carolina, I thank the committee members who saw this bill for what it was and voted against moving it forward,” said Kieran Shanahan, chairman of the N.C. Property Rights Coalition.
“Passing this bill would have established a dangerous precedent for property owners in North Carolina. Alcoa is a private business that paid for and developed the land it owns.
“If the state is allowed to seize Alcoa’s property, how vulnerable are private citizens and small business owners like you and me to the same type of government takeover?”

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