council-alcoa update

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Staff report
Federal regulators have dismissed Alcoa Power Generating Inc.’s request for a rehearing and say the record includes enough information related to sedimentation in High Rock Lake.
Alcoa had filed a motion for discovery Oct. 5 to allow it to obtain materials underlying the city of Salisbury’s submissions from various experts regarding sedimentation and flooding.
Alcoa’s Yadkin Hydroelectric Project is up for a new long-term license, which must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The city of Salisbury has used the licensing process to make its case that Alcoa’s construction, operation and maintenance of High Rock Dam have contributed to sedimentation and flooding that threaten the city’s water intakes, raw water pump station and Grants Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
FERC’s draft environmental impact statement, issued Sept. 28, recommended that Alcoa be required to develop a sedimentation and flood protection plan, including specific measures to dredge around the city’s water intakes and assess the feasibility of measures to protect the pump station and wastewater treatment plant from flooding.
Then came Alcoa’s motion for discovery. It asked for more data, that Salisbury make its consultants available for deposition and that a “discovery master” be appointed to resolve potential disputes.
Salisbury filed an answer to Alcoa’s motion Oct. 15.
On Oct. 18, FERC sent a letter to Alcoa saying the draft environmental impact statement had included an evaluation of information submitted by Alcoa and Salisbury. The letter concluded that “the record included sufficient information for Alcoa to provide meaningful comment on staff’s analysis of sediment deposition in High Rock Lake.”
On Oct. 31, Alcoa filed a request for clarification of the Oct. 18 letter or, in the alternative, a rehearing on the letter.
FERC’s “Order on Clarification and Dismissing Request for Rehearing” was issued Dec. 20.
It dismissed Alcoa’s request for a rehearing and tries to clarify that the Oct. 18 letter neither grants nor denies Alcoa’s motion for discovery at later stages of the process.
The FERC order adds, however, that “while we will not prejudge our response to any future request that we institute trial-type proceedings here, a party making such a request would bear a very high burden of proof, given that these proceedings have been under way for some 18 months.”
A final environmental impact statement is due in March. Numerous other governments and stakeholders have supported the overall relicensing through a settlement agreement signed by the parties with Alcoa last year.