Alcoa supports state study of water issues on Yadkin

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Staff report
RALEIGH ó Alcoa said Wednesday it supports a proposed study of water issues along the Yadkin River by the state’s Environmental Review Commission.
The study was approved by a House Judiciary committee Tuesday and if considered by the full House Wednesday, could obtain final approval today.
“We recognize the growing importance of water issues in North Carolina, and welcome the opportunity to work with the state to protect its water interests along the Yadkin River,” said Gene Ellis, licensing and property manager for Alcoa Power Generating Inc. (APGI), which operates the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project along a 38-mile stretch of the Yadkin River.
Ellis said the company was assured that it was not the Legislature’s intent to delay the federal relicensing of the Yadkin Project or pursue a takeover of the project.
Alcoa had opposed previous legislative study proposals that focused on delaying the company’s relicensing effort and exploring a state condemnation of the Yadkin Project, which includes High Rock Lake.
Stanly County officials have looked to the state to intervene in the license renewal process.
Opponents contend that Alcoa Power Generating Inc., since the shutdown of its aluminum plant in Badin, no longer operates in the public interest. They have cited economic, environmental and water rights concerns.
Alcoa officials says they have worked for five years with the state of North Carolina and other stakeholders on a plan for the future management of the Yadkin Project.
The effort resulted in a Relicensing Settlement Agreement that was signed by 22 organizations representing a number of diverse, and often conflicting, interests on the Yadkin watershed, the company said. Agencies which have signed on include the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the town of Badin and the city of Albemarle, the largest water user on the Yadkin River, and environmental interest groups such as American Rivers and the Nature Conservancy.
“We believe the relicensing agreement effectively balances many competing interests along the Yadkin River, while protecting North Carolina’s water interests at the same time,” Ellis said. “We believe this study’s narrow focus on water issues will complement the previous relicensing studies that have been conducted during the past five years.”