State takeover isn’t answer for Yadkin dams

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 12, 2013

Citizens in this region should be very concerned at this latest turn in the debate over the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project relicensing. Advocates of the takeover of this project are also clearly advocates of larger government, and most seem to share a distrust of corporations that seems to be spreading like a cancer in this country.
First, we all need to reflect on the fact that business (corporations) created the beautiful lakes we all enjoy, and that most take for granted. Absent the investment by business a century ago, we would likely have a meandering Yadkin River running through the region. While we all fantasize about the wonderful qualities of unspoiled rivers, that’s not likely what a Yadkin without dams would be today. The Yadkin’s 4,000-square-mile watershed provides a lot of pollution potential, especially the large municipal and industrial discharges.

Without the business investment, the tens of thousands recreation days enjoyed annually on the Yadkin lakes would not be happening. Most fishermen would go somewhere else, because bass boats could not have navigated the 38-mile stretch we know as High Rock, Tuckertown, Badin and Falls reservoirs. Likewise, forget about pontoon boat rides, waterskiing and wakeboarding, or just enjoying the view.
I know of no one who’s ever been denied access to the waters of these lakes, nor do I know of any town or municipality denied water withdrawals or the ability to discharge wastewater in this stretch of the river.
What is appropriate about the state refusing to issue a water quality certificate in response to an applicant asking permission to spend huge sums of money to improve the water we drink from, swim and fish in? Would you prefer that money come from your tax dollars, perhaps instead of spending it on education?
Have you seen any plan to leverage a state takeover of the Yadkin Project into the creation of tens of thousands of jobs? I have not!
Does anyone really believe public ownership will reduce their electric bill? I think not, but if it will, perhaps this lawsuit should address all the hydroelectric dams in the state, not just four dams on the Yadkin River.

Why does anyone fear for an adequate supply of clean drinking water? If you live in the Yadkin watershed, your only fear should arise from the likelihood that proponents of state takeover want to streamline the interbasin transfer process to send our water to Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties, enabling growth in regions outside the Yadkin watershed in exchange for our loss. We all want clean water, but advocating state takeover is not the answer. High Rock Lake is classified as impaired, Badin is not. Our pollution comes from the watershed and from the skies, not one industrial plant at the downstream end of the wonderful lakes.
The state’s latest action is another hurtful delay to those of us who invested thousands of hours working together with all interested and involved stakeholders, developing a Relicensing Settlement Agreement that is a blueprint for the operation of the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project for years to come. The RSA provides for huge environmental, recreational and economic benefits for the region; and for the governor to allow special interests to delay its implementation is a terrible disservice to the public. Just one example is a new public recreational access area to be created on the lake in Rowan County, for swimming, fishing with accessible piers, picnicking and boating when a new federal license is issued. Rowan now has no such area providing this kind of access to High Rock Lake.
I fear the governor has allowed the beginning of a legal battle that will cost our state millions and accomplish nothing in the end, except the delays I speak of. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled on a virtually identical case, and that state lost. The taking of private property is a serious matter, and one not looked upon favorably by most Americans.
Larry Jones lives at High Rock Lake. He formerly served as president of the High Rock Lake Association and participated in the relicensing negotiations between Alcoa and stakeholder groups. This article is his personal opinion, not that of HRLA.
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