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Operating license for Yadkin dams transferred to buyer Cube Hydro

By Josh Bergeron
josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The sale of Alcoa’s Yadkin River dams on Tuesday moved one step closer to completion when federal regulators approved a license transfer.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the transfer of a long-term operating license from Alcoa Power Generating to Cube Yadkin Generation, affiliated with Maryland-based Cube Hydro. In the transfer, federal regulators bind Cube Yadkin to all the original license conditions, which include water quality, erosion control, public recreation and other enhancements. One example of an item included in the license is that a swimming beach must be built on High Rock Lake.

“When a license is transferred, the new licensee steps into the shoes of the old licensee,” federal regulators said in Tuesday’s decision.

Alcoa’s, and now Cube Hydro’s, operating license lasts until 2055. The license was first approved in September.

In an emailed statement, Alcoa spokesman Jim Beck said the license transfer enables the company to continue working with Cube Hyrdro to finalize a sale and ensure a smooth transition.

Facilities being purchased by Cube Hydro include the four hydroelectric stations, dams and reservoirs along a 38-mile stretch of the Yadkin River. The facilities are known as High Rock, Tuckertown, Narrows and Falls. A sale from Alcoa to Cube Hydro was announced in July. Beck said Alcoa expects the sale to close in the first quarter of 2017. A price has not been disclosed.

Commenting on the transfer, Yadkin Riverkeeper Will Scott said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission continues to be a “rubber stamp” for Alcoa. Scott said the action doesn’t have an impact on the ongoing case related to ownership of the Yadkin River or “Alcoa’s ongoing discharges of cyanide from its retired smelter facility to the Yadkin and its tributaries.”

The Riverkeeper and other environmental groups had requested Cube Hydro start a new license application because of the planned transfer. Federal regulators denied that request because Cube Hydro doesn’t plan significant changes to physical features of the Yadkin Dams.

“A license transfer … does not involve any significant changes in the license and does not provide an opportunity to reopen the licensing proceeding,” the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s decision states.

There’s no basis to question Cube Hydro’s fitness to hold the Yadkin dams’ license, federal regulators said.

Now the owner of an operating license, Cube Hydro on Wednesday said it’s excited to begin investing in clean energy in North Carolina.

“We are committed to operating the plants in a manner that continues to produce positive economic, environmental and social benefits in the counties and communities surrounding the Yadkin River and to the State of North Carolina,” said Cube Hydro CEO Dr. Kristina Johnson.

Tuesday’s decision gives any party the option to file a request for rehearing within 30 days.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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