Stanly backs trust to operate Yadkin Project

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

ALBEMARLE ó The Stanly County Board of Commissioners has endorsed the “State Trust Concept,” a document produced by the N.C. Water Rights Committee as an option for the management and ownership of the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project.
Alcoa Power Generating Inc. is in the process of trying to renew its federal license for the project, which includes High Rock Lake.
The Stanly commissioners unanimously endorsed the State Trust Concept at their Jan. 5 meeting.
The N.C. Water Rights Committee calls for establishing a trust for owning and managing the dams and reservoirs on behalf of the state’s residents. The committee argues that the trust would provide the state with multiple advantages connected to the project that Alcoa has not promised in its application.
Stanly County commissioners oppose Alcoa’s application for a new license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. They say Alcoa does not address the environmental hazards associated with the company’s dam operations and its now-closed smelter at Badin Lake.
The commissioners also contend Alcoa will generate millions of dollars in profit from hydroelectricity generated by the dams and sold on the power grid while providing relatively little economic benefit to the Yadkin River Basin and the state as a whole.
The full text of the State Trust Concept can be accessed at the N.C. Water Rights Web site at www.ncwaterrights.org/Info/Info005.aspx.
“The State Trust Concept boldly articulates what we believe is an excellent vision for the future of the Yadkin River,” Stanly County Commissioner Lindsey Dunevant said in a press release. “It provides more for our children and grandchildren than what Alcoa has proposed in its relicensing application.
“The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should consider what the trust proposes vs. what Alcoa offers and see which is more relevant in meeting the FERC’s mission of regulating and overseeing energy industries in the economic, environmental and safety interests of the American public, especially over the long term. We trust members of the Environmental Review Commission will do the same.”
Meanwhile, Alcoa has supported a North Carolina study of water issues, while urging lawmakers to avoid consideration of a government takeover of the project.
The company says maintaining a healthy and abundant water supply is critical to North Carolina’s future. But it adds the state should stay true to the focus of its study and honor a commitment to not consider a government takeover or condemnation of the Yadkin Project.
For the state to study a “recapture” or “taking” of the Yadkin Project is outside the bounds of what the study calls for, Alcoa has said.
The taking of private business would set a dangerous precedent and send the wrong message to businesses that may be looking to expand or locate in North Carolina, according to Alcoa’s Web site.
The N.C. General Assembly has asked the Environmental Review Commission to study how a new long-term license for the Yadkin Project might affect the state.
Alcoa and Stanly County recently filed briefs with the ERC outlining their positions. Those briefs were submitted during the ERC meeting Nov. 25, 2008. The ERC is supposed to submit a written study report regarding the Yadkin Project relicensing to the General Assembly by Feb. 1.
To assess public opinion regarding this issue, Alcoa hired McLaughlin & Associates, a national polling firm, to conduct a public opinion survey.
McLaughlin & Associates conducted a telephone survey of 500 likely voters on June 19-22, 2008, with an additional oversample for a total of 350 interviews in Anson, Cabarrus, Davidson, Davie, Iredell, Montgomery, Randolph, Rowan, Stanly and Union counties.
The poll found that 71 percent of N.C. residents oppose spending $25 million or more of taxpayer money on a government takeover of the Yadkin Project, the company reported.
The poll also showed that the purchasing of a hydroelectric power plant on the Yadkin River in North Carolina is not a major state priority, according to Alcoa.
The N.C. Division of Water Quality will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday regarding Alcoa’s application for a Section 401 water quality certificate. The company must have the certificate before FERC could issue a long-term license.

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