UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION
DOCKET # P-2197
APPLICANT: Alcoa Power Generating Inc.
Name of Project: Yadkin
an unincorporated organization representing over five thousand stakeholders with
environmental, economic and/or recreational interests in
as well as the other impoundments that are part of Project 2197 and the
, wishes to comment on the Drought Contingency Plan for 2003 submitted by Alcoa
Power Generating Inc.
The issue as
defined by the FERC
December 20, 2002
, Mr. Joseph D. Morgan issued an official FERC response to Alcoa Power
Generating Inc.’s variance request of
August 29, 2002
. The specific request was to
collaborate with NC Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources, SC Dept. of
Natural Resources, SC Dept. of Health and Environmental Control and Carolina
Power and Light and manage the Yadkin Project under a temporary “Protocol”
to help mitigate the effects of the drought.
The variance request also asked to deviate from the drawdown requirements
as stated in the approved operating guides for the project and for flexibility
in the starting date (
March 6, 2003
) to refill High Rock reservoir within five feet of full by
May 15, 2003
In his response, Mr. Morgan noted that due to climatic
changes the variances requested are no longer warranted and normal operations
should resume. He also noted that
should be within five feet of full from
May 15, 2003
September 15, 2003
. He went on to note that since
ground water tables had not been completely recharged, if precipitation should
return to below normal occurrences, severe drought conditions could rapidly
return. In response to this
possibility, he stated that APGI should be proactive by using the information
and communication network established during the drought emergency of 2002 and
develop a Drought Contingency Plan for 2003.
Finally he stated that one of the primary goals of this plan should be to
within five feet of full pool (as stated in the terms of their present
The Response by
February 14, 2003
Alcoa Power Generating Inc. submitted a response to this directive but failed
to actually provide a contingency plan that could be effectively evaluated.
In the first part of the APGI response they simply restated the events of
Step ONE -- the drought determination portion of their
“Plan” begins with a discussion of a collaborative process among a limited
number of stakeholders beginning in March of 2003 to evaluate stream flows,
forecasts, precipitation and ground water levels. As noted in comments by the NC
Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources, the number of stakeholders included
should be increased to include several NGOs as well, since they are
representatives of defined stakeholders also affected by the decisions made.
Step TWO (A) -- uses the U.S. Drought Monitor
classification of D1 to deem the existence of drought conditions and seems to
supercede Step ONE completely.
Step TWO (B) -- rambles on about what other stakeholders should do at the time a drought is declared but
it does not contain any specific steps that APGI would implement if the plan is
approved. There are five points
noted in Step TWO (B) (three possible variance requests and two arbitrary
statements) but there is NO SPECIFIC PLAN included for drought response
measures. At this point, they
indicate in the footnote that they do not understand why they have been directed
to develop a Drought Contingency Plan for 2003.
Our Assessment of
the Drought Contingency Plan
It appears that APGI has completely missed a golden
opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the environment as is often
stated in their corporate literature. It
seems they are attempting to sell a “Plan” that still leaves almost every
option open to their discretion. They
did not include any specific steps necessary to protect the important natural
resources they are allowed to use for FREE.
During 2002, APGI constantly referred to the “required” discharge and
the current drawdown schedule for the project, combined with unprecedented low
inflow conditions as being the reason that
was so severely devastated. However, they make no direct reference to either in their Drought Contingency Plan and
only a passing reference to them in the footnote on page 5.
It is disturbing that in the cover letter accompanying this
plan APGI states they have chosen to decline the inclusion of two very important
requests made by NCDENR. First, they
chose to specifically exclude additional stakeholder representatives in the
collaborative process. Second, they
specifically excluded the request to establish “proportional reservoir
drawdowns”. The exclusion of
legitimate stakeholder representatives should not be condoned.
The insistence on excluding provisions designed to provide the maximum
level of protection to our natural resources, our environment and our wildlife
While Steps ONE and TWO (A) could be considered as options,
the most important indicator of a problem is simply inflow to
. At any point in time that inflow
begins to approach the “required” discharge from the project, there IS a
at the mandated levels will become difficult if adjustments are not made
While APGI chooses to interpret the discharge limits as a
“required” discharge, the license actually reads they should “limit” the
discharge to the appropriate cubic feet per second (1500, 1610 or 1400 depending
on the period). In every other
situation, the word “limit” would indicate this should be the MAXIMUM but
not necessarily the exact amount or the minimum.
The directive of Mr. Morgan is VERY clear to us and the
reason it is necessary is even more obvious.
The exceptional drought conditions of 2002 were a clear indication that
blindly following the archaic “rule curve” and drawdown schedule for Project
2197 will never work under low flow conditions.
As noted in the comments from NCDENR, the studies necessary to be able to
include exact discharge requirements versus lake elevations have not been done
at this point in time. The adaptive
approach used during 2002 may still be the best approach to determine exact
figures. However, there was a wealth
of information gained during 2002. No
amount of modeling or studying could have predicted the acceptable limits more
accurately. The drought conditions
experienced in 2002 were of an unprecedented nature and demonstrated what very
possibly could be the “worst case scenario” for the
if we are not adequately prepared to react.
There MUST be a plan with pre-approved variances to the existing rules
with variable limits (collaboratively determined by all stakeholders, not just
the power interests and the Governmental Agencies) that can be quickly
implemented when conditions warrant. At
a minimum, the Drought Contingency Plan should include:
should be based solely on inflow to
versus discharge requirements.
must be reduced to no more than inflow down to a predefined minimum
advisable discharge (collaboratively determined by ALL stakeholders).
the time inflow drops below the minimum advisable discharge, the reserves
stored in the reservoirs should be used to supplement the inflow to provide
a discharge equivalent to the minimum advisable discharge.
This would continue to protect the environment and stakeholders in
for a while but there must be a reasonable drawdown schedule for all of the
drawdowns should be done equitably amongst all of the reservoirs.
Ideally, the drawdowns should begin with
and progress back up the river basin one lake at a time toward
. This would facilitate maximum
conservation of water resources and provide “protective” reserves for
the largest portion of the river basin for the longest period of time.
These reserves would then be available for any corrective measures
necessary for water quantity or water quality issues.
reservoir should be drawn down more than 50 percent of the average depth of
the reservoir (or less if necessary to protect municipal water supplies). If
all reservoirs have reached their maximum drawdown, discharge must be
limited to no more than inflow (no matter how low that is) to ensure the
continued protection of the environment, fish and wildlife.
During 2002 there appeared to be a misconception that the upper Yadkin
River and the reservoirs in North Carolina SHOULD be used (until depleted) to
provide river flows in the Pee Dee River that were higher
than what would have occurred naturally.
While these resources are contributors to the total river flow in the
, they are NOT the sole source of those flows.
There are at least six other rivers and large creeks that also contribute
to the total flow at the mouth of the Pee Dee River and lack of flow in those
areas can NOT be compensated for by
totally draining all of the stored reserves in North Carolina.
Historically, the inflow to
has always been approximately one third of the total flow measured at
. During periods of low flow the
reservoirs in Project 2197 should not be expected to provide more than one third
of the total flow there.
While the above normal precipitation during the fall of 2002 allowed all of the
lakes to recover to reasonable levels and APGI to return to somewhat normal
generation schedules, the beginning of 2003 has not even been close to the
historic averages. The average
has been almost 40 percent below the historic averages for the month of
January. This is a clear indication that the ground water tables have indeed NOT
been replenished. Absent above
normal rainfall, the possibility of experiencing real problems in the Yadkin-Pee
Dee river basin again this year is very real.
Our Request of
Just as in the coming relicensing process of Project 2197,
details are absolutely crucial to the successful evaluation of any “Plan”
and any “Plan” without adequate details can NOT be properly evaluated.
Considering the lack of details and APGI’s refusal to include important
suggestions made by the NCDENR, we respectfully request that the Drought
Contingency Plan for 2003 submitted by APGI be rejected as inadequate and
In the absence of an effective drought contingency plan we
respectfully request that the current “rule curve” and drawdown schedule be
abandoned and the figure used as “available storage for hydro generation”
be amended to no more than 50,000 Acre Feet each.
Furthermore, we request that APGI be instructed to operate all of Project
2197 as a “run of river” facility for the duration of their existing license
to ensure adequate protection of the environment, fish and wildlife, recreation
and the rights of all other defined stakeholders.
this would provide approximately 4 feet of storage for hydro generation, allow
another 4 feet for drought mitigation, and reserve approximately 8 feet for the
protection of the environment, fish and wildlife.
, this would provide approximately 12 feet of storage for hydro generation.
Due to the potential for low DO and stratification problems, as well as
issues with the water intake for the city of Albemarle, it was determined in
2002 that 12 feet down was as far as Badin Lake should be pulled.
If those issues can be resolved, there could potentially be additional
water used for drought mitigation from
For decades, Alcoa has claimed that the economic benefit of
the project was tied to hundreds of jobs in the Badin Works smelting facility.
They applied for and received tax incentives based on the concept of the
electricity they produce being an integral component in the smelting of
aluminum. They claimed lowering the
cost of producing aluminum would create and / or protect local jobs. Alcoa
Aluminum has now closed the smelting operations at the Badin Works facility.
APGI has entered into a five year contract with a third party power
broker to sell all of the electricity they produce on the open market.
Therefore, the scope, nature and benefit of the generating facilities must be
reexamined. Operations at Project
2197 are the controlling factor in over fifty percent of the
. Project considerations should now include the total impact as well as the
total benefit to the surrounding and downstream communities. The requested
changes would have a very positive impact on the economy of every county
surrounding Project 2197. They would
also have a positive impact on the quality, quantity and safety of recreation at
the largest reservoir in the project. Combined
with our proposed Drought Contingency suggestions, the entire river basin would
be afforded the maximum protection of environment, recreation and fish and
wildlife. Full reservoirs combined
with swift reaction to low flow conditions should minimize the need to ever go
into full drought mitigation mode with extended reservoir drawdowns.
It should help to improve the overall water quality in several of the
reservoirs by keeping “retention time” of the water to a minimum.
Finally, “run of river” operations would encourage the beneficial
restoration of a flow regime in the
similar to that of a naturally flowing river as is being sought by many
. As the total Megawatt Hour
capacity of all of the hydroelectric facilities on the
is governed only by the inflow to the project, there should be absolutely no
loss in capacity. Everything coming
into the project will still be used for hydroelectric power generation.
The only difference would be in the value of the power to APGI since
generation strictly during peak periods would be more limited than it is now.
The total environmental, recreational and economic benefit to the
surrounding and downstream communities from these modifications would be huge
compared to the potential for minimal profit reductions to APGI stockholders.
Robert W. Petree
Chairman of the