North Carolina to study 210-MW Yadkin project

North Carolina’s Environmental Review Commission will study the effect of a 50-year relicense for Alcoa Power Generating Inc.’s 210-MW Yadkin hydroelectric project, which includes four powerhouses along a 38-mile stretch of the Yadkin River.

Gov. Mike Easley signed a bill requiring the study July 28. The study will focus on water issues and add to other relicensing studies for the project conducted over the past five years, Alcoa said. The state commission, which consists of members of the Legislature, will develop various proposals for the Yadkin River and include them in a report to the General Assembly due Feb. 1, 2009.

The Environmental Review Commission could suggest the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission place conditions in a new license ranging from environmental restrictions to measures for local economic well being. The state commission’s study report is to include findings and recommendations, including legislative proposals that would help implement the recommendations.

Alcoa opposed previous legislative study proposals that it said focused on delaying the company’s relicensing efforts and exploring state condemnation of the Yadkin project. However, Alcoa said it supports the revised bill signed by the governor. The new measure does not include provisions for study of a state condemnation of the project.

�We recognize the growing importance of water issues in North Carolina, and welcome the opportunity to work with the state to support its water interests along the Yadkin River,� Alcoa Licensing Manager Gene Ellis said.

Alcoa filed a relicense application for the Yadkin Project (No. 2197) in 2006 and a settlement agreement with stakeholders in May 2007. FERC staff issued an environmental impact statement supporting relicensing in April. (HNN 4/23/08) The EIS considered and rejected the alternative of a federal takeover of the project, an option allowed by the Federal Power Act, but never implemented.

At the request of the local Stanly County Commission, 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.

Alcoa’s original license expired April 30. The project, which features the 31-MW Yadkin Falls, 108-MW Narrows, 38-MW Tuckertown, and 33-MW High Rock developments, is operating under an annual license.

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