By Bruce A. Cox

Special to the Post

Now that fall rains have somewhat relieved central North Carolinaıs unprecedented summer drought conditions, we at Alcoa Power Generating Inc. are disappointed that the Salisbury Post chose to take an uninformed view of our corporationıs response to drought issues.

In what seems to be an attempt to inflame a difficult and contentious issue, your Nov. 15 editorial failed to consider key facts. Your readers and those at your publication should note that:

-Alcoa has been communicating regularly with the public, state and federal agencies, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission since August 2000 that central North Carolina was experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions. In fact, the Postıs own coverage in August 2000 reminded readers of the importance of incoming stream flow and its impact on reservoir levels.

-Alcoa led the charge to respond to this yearıs drought when inflows to High Rock Lake Reservoir dropped drastically in mid-May. At that time, High Rock was about 5.5 feet below full. Alcoa was the first to suggest and then hosted a drought summit on June 20 and invited N.C. and S.C. state agency staff, local elected officials, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the media to examine the issue. We asked participants for impact information at that meeting.


-Since the drought summit, Alcoa has collaborated energetically with N.C. and S.C. officials and CP&L to balance water resource needs in the face of an unprecedented natural disaster. Our primary goal in this collaboration was protection of public water supply within the Yadkin Project and extending nearly to the Atlantic Ocean , while taking into consideration environmental and economic impacts. This work resulted in three temporary modifications to the Project license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which were designed to minimize overall impacts of the drought. In addition, our work with others during the drought created a historic emergency protocol between North Carolina and South Carolina .

-Drought has serious negative consequences for everyone, and this includes Alcoa. Your staff and readers may not realize that we have incurred substantial costs in lost generating capacity and exceptional amounts of staff time and resources, and none of these costs were passed on to others.

-In an August letter concerning the drought, the Environmental Protection Agency stated: ³EPA does not believe that APGI (Alcoa Power Generating Inc.) should be faulted for failing to plan for such a situation.² EPA recognized APGIıs requirements under its license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ³to manage water levels for a variety of resources, needs and other activities,² including ³hydropower, downstream flow requirements, recreation, and wildlife issues.²

-As the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensee responsible for managing the Yadkin Project, Alcoa does not have the luxury of ³moving on² after this yearıs drought, as your editorial implied. We continue to work on solutions to balance the whole range of water resource issues in the Yadkin-Pee Dee Basin .

As Alcoa has stated throughout this crisis, drought was the core reason for low reservoir water levels, not its management of the Project. We also point out that since 1968, when the Project operating guides were first put in place, with the exception of a few abnormally dry and drought periods, High Rock Reservoir water levels have allowed a recreation season for the publicıs benefit. It was only after an extended period of extreme and exceptional drought that the reservoir experienced the impacts of the summer of 2002.

In closing, even though rainfall has returned, we will continue to analyze information from this yearıs experience to learn better ways to respond to such unprecedented conditions in the Yadkin River Basin . We assure the Post and the public that Alcoa will continue listening and communicating accurately on this difficult issue. We urge the Post to do the same.
Bruce A. Cox is vice president of Alcoa Power Generating Inc.