The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued an environmental impact statement supporting the relicensing of two North Carolina hydroelectric projects containing six hydro plants totaling 318.6 MW.
The EIS supports the relicensing proposals, with FERC staff modifications, of:
o Alcoa Power Generating Inc.’s 210-MW Yadkin project (No. 2197) including the 31-MW Yadkin Falls, 108-MW Narrows, 38-MW Tuckertown, and 33-MW High Rock developments, all on the Yadkin River; and
o Progress Energy Carolina’s 108.6-MW Yadkin-Pee Dee project (No. 2206) including the 84-MW Tillery development on the Yadkin River and the 24.6-MW Blewett Falls development on the Pee Dee River.
Alcoa Power filed a relicense application in 2006 and a settlement agreement with stakeholders in May 2007. (HNN 8/22/06) Progress Energy, formerly Carolina Power &Light, filed a relicense application in 2006 and a settlement agreement in July 2007.
The EIS, issued by FERC staff, said primary environmental issues of the Yadkin project are reservoir fluctuations and their effect on aquatic resources and recreation, dissolved oxygen downstream of power plants, and alteration of sediment transport in the Yadkin River and its effects on sedimentation and flood frequency.
The EIS said primary environmental issues of Yadkin-Pee Dee are minimum flows for recreation and support of aquatic life, dissolved oxygen downstream, adequacy of recreation access, and passage for American shad and American eel.
“The settlements filed for the two projects included a wide range of measures to enhance, mitigate, and protect the resources affected by the continued operation of the projects,” FERC said. “The measures proposed in both settlements replaced actions proposed in the license applications.”
Relicense provisions would increase operating costs
The EIS said the existing Yadkin project generates an average of 814,306 MWh annually valued at $35.3 million at a cost of $24.8 million annually, costing $10.4 million less than the most likely source of alternative power. Under Alcoa’s relicensing proposal, with FERC staff modifications, the project would generate 940,000 MWh annually worth $39.9 million at a cost of $40.1 million annually, costing $177,100 more than alternative power.
The EIS said the existing Yadkin-Pee Dee project generates an average of 370,100 MWh annually valued at $15.9 million at a cost of $7.4 million annually, costing $8.5 million less than the most likely source of alternative power. Under Progress Energy’s relicensing proposal, with FERC staff modifications, the project would generate 362,900 MWh annually worth $15.3 million at a cost of $9.3 million annually, costing $5.9 million less than alternative power.
Alcoa Power said it anticipated a relicense would be issued in three to five months. Because the existing license expires April 30, FERC is expected to issue a temporary annual license to fill the gap.
“We were pleased to see the continued support for the relicensing settlement agreement,” Alcoa Power Licensing Manager Gene Ellis said of the EIS. “As a result, our new license will improve water quality, allow for increased water withdrawals from the Yadkin River, keep more water in the reservoirs during periods of drought, create new recreational opportunities, and protect more than 6,000 acres of land for conservation, recreation, and game lands.” (HNN 9/3/07)
Local officials, governor urge takeover of Yadkin
Ellis noted the EIS considered and rejected the alternative of a federal takeover of the projects, an option allowed by the Federal Power Act, but never implemented.
At the request of the local Stanly County Commission, North Carolina Gov. Michael Easley wrote FERC April 4, urging the commission to extend Alcoa Power’s existing license for a year so Stanly County and the state could pursue taking ownership of the project away from Alcoa Power.
Stanly County commissioners contend Alcoa won a license for Yadkin in 1958 promising manufacturing jobs for Stanly County. However, they complain that Alcoa has closed its manufacturing plants and has yet to finish cleaning up discharge of hazardous pollutants in the waterway.
“It is the position of the Stanly County commissioners that the best way to provide for the future of the Yadkin River is for the state of North Carolina and its public to be the undisputed owner of the project,” a statement by the commissioners said.
Alcoa Power’s Ellis said FERC considered and rejected federal takeover of Yadkin under the Federal Power Act, saying no federal agency has suggested that federal takeover would be appropriate.
“Hopefully, this will send a strong message to those who continue to promote the idea that that federal government should take control of our business,” Ellis said. “No federal agencies have expressed any desire to take over the project and the deadlines for pursuing such an option are long since passed.”