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Rowan joins call for state review of Alcoa’s Yadkin River Project

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
Rowan County is supporting a resolution calling on the state to examine the potential effect of Alcoa’s Yadkin Hydroelectric Project on future clean water supplies.
Commissioner Jim Sides, who represented Rowan County at the recent meeting of the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, took part in that body’s unanimous vote to pass the resolution.
Sides said Tuesday he will report to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners at its meeting next week and will raise some of his concerns about the Yadkin project.
“I realize we voted to approve the license, but some things have come out. … There have been some new revelations,” Sides said. “I’ve had some change of heart.”
Over the last six months, boards of commissioners in several neighboring counties have passed resolutions opposing Alcoa’s operation of the Yadkin Project. Those counties include Davidson, Anson and Cabarrus.
Although officials in neighboring counties have raised concerns about the Yadkin Project and adopted resolutions seeking a state review, Rowan commissioners apparently haven’t been approached to join the effort.
Sides and Chairman Arnold Chamberlain said they have not received any resolutions to consider.
Although commissioners haven’t discussed the Yadkin Project recently, Sides made up his mind to support the resolution after looking at several issues.
One of the concern Sides cited is the city of Salisbury’s battle with Alcoa over sedimentation that threatens the city’s Yadkin River water intake.
Sides said the city has put up “some really good arguments” that Alcoa doesn’t want to deal with.
The resolution adopted by the state association urges the Environmental Review Commission to study all options available to the state of North Carolina ó including the recapture provisions under federal law ó as it reviews the impact on the state if Alcoa’s application for a new 50-year license for generating hydroelectric power on the Yadkin River is granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The Yadkin Hydroelectric Project has four hydroelectric stations, dams and reservoirs along a 38-mile stretch of the Yadkin River, one of the longest rivers in North Carolina.
Alcoa’s license to operate the project expired April 30, 2008. Instead of granting another 50-year license, the Energy Regulatory Commission decided to allow a one-year extension and is expected to issue its final report by Feb. 9, 2009.
The resolution passed by the state association cites Senate Bill 1046 passed by the General Assembly, which directed the Environmental Review Commission to study the impact on the state of the potential issuance of a new 50-year license for the project.
The resolution reads, in part:
“Whereas, 50 years ago, the federal government allowed Alcoa to use the public water to generate electricity and create jobs, now Alcoa has essentially disappeared as a major employer and provider of jobs, but wants to continue to reap the benefits of the water that rightly belongs to the people; and
Whereas, if the federal government renews Alcoa’s license, it will allow Alcoa to generate power not for job creation but to be sold in the open electricity market for a substantial profit; and
Whereas, essentially, if Alcoa obtains the license renewal, a public river will be used for the next 50 years solely to maximize Alcoa’s profits;
Whereas, in addition to the economic issues, Stanly County is especially concerned about the history of environmental contamination caused by Alcoa’s operations in Badin;
Whereas, if Alcoa is granted another 50-year license, and the State of North Carolina wanted to make reasonable use of a reservoir licensed to Alcoa for the purpose of protecting the public water supply, the State could be required to seek permission from Alcoa or some other foreign or domestic entity that may acquire Alcoa’s license.
Now therefore be it resolved that the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners urges the Environmental Review Commission to study all available options to the State of North Carolina, including the recapture provisions under federal law, when it reviews:
– The socioeconomic impacts of Alcoa’s decision to discontinue its job-producing manufacturing activities at its Badin facility that relied on the use of low-cost power from the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project;
– The assurance of an adequate, clean future water supply for the region; and
– The allocation of water for non-power uses from the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project.”

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