DOCKET # P-2197

APPLICANT: Alcoa Power Generating Inc.

Name of Project:  Yadkin

SaveHighRockLake.org is an unincorporated organization representing over five thousand stakeholders with environmental, economic and/or recreational interests in High Rock Lake , as well as the other impoundments that are part of Project 2197 and the Upper Yadkin River Basin .  After having a chance to read the cover letter and all of the attachments included with the Drought Contingency Plan for 2003 submitted by Alcoa Power Generating Inc., we respectfully request to submit the following additional comments.  

In the Cover Letter from David R. Poe of LeBoeuf, Lamb, Green & MacRae, counsel for APGI, Mr. Poe briefly characterizes the plan.  He then states that “APGI has incorporated into the Drought contingency Plan all of the written comments received from the Parties to the extent that those comments were relevant to the commission’s instructions to develop a plan only for 2003, with two relatively minor exceptions.

While Mr. Poe refers to these exclusions as minor, we totally disagree with the classification of these items as minor. 

  1. The request from NCDENR to include more representatives in the meetings and conference calls from stakeholder groups as they had been defined in the Competing Demands for Water section of the plan.

It is important to note that the suggestion from NCDENR was also made during the conference call prior to the submission of everyone’s written comments.  No other representatives offered any written objection to including additional stakeholders in the meetings and conference calls.

The Electric Consumers Protection Act of 1986 defines recreation as a specific stakeholder interest deserving the same level of consideration as fish and wildlife, power generation and the environment.  The protection of fish and wildlife is the specific responsibility of the US Fish and Wildlife service.  The protection of the environment is the specific responsibility of NCDENR, SCDNR and SCDHEC.  The protection of the interests of power generation is the specific responsibilities of the representatives from Progress Energy and Alcoa Power Generating Inc.. To our knowledge we are the only organization officially created for the sole purpose of representing the interests of recreational users of Project 2197.  We strongly oppose ANY plan that specifically excludes participation by representatives from recognized stakeholder groups.

We would also like to point out that while NCDENR would be participating in the collaborative process defined in the APGI plan, they would be the only participant whose primary concern is the protection of the watershed in NC.  The interest of the two power companies involved will be driven by corporate profit goals.  The interests of the two agencies from SC will be the protection of the environment and stakeholders in SC.  The protection of fish and wildlife would be the responsibility of the representative from the USFWS.  This equates to having one representative interested in conserving and protecting the resources in NC, one representative interested in avoiding fish kills and four representatives interested in ensuring as much water as possible is passed through the dams and sent on down the river. This does not appear to be an appropriate distribution of stakeholder representation to ensure adequate levels of protection to our strained natural resources during periods of drought.

  1. APGI declined to include in the proposed Plan NCDENR’s suggestion to establish “Proportional reservoir drawdowns” as one of the precise goals of the drought response measures to be undertaken.

It is very disturbing that APGI would recognize NCDENR as one of the experts in water resource protection in one paragraph and specifically choose to ignore their advice in the next paragraph.  Section 2B of APGI’s proposed Plan does not list any specific things that would absolutely be done or any particular order they may occur in.  The cover letter states that proportional reservoir drawdown “certainly remains an option”.  Why should they feel it necessary to specifically exclude it in the section listing the possible options they might pursue under the Plan?  While “proportional reservoir drawdowns” may not always be desirable from a power generating perspective, it is certainly preferable to the drawdowns executed by APGI in 2002 from an environmental point of view.  Again, none of the other participants filed comments opposing “proportional reservoir drawdowns”.

Several of the comments filed by the other participants emphasized that they felt any Drought Contingency plan should not just be restricted to the calendar year 2003.  At the very least, any plan created should be for the duration of the existing license for Project 2197 and could be used as a model for any such plan that is certain to be requested during the relicensing of the project.

The environmental experts from SC commented that they were opposed to using the 900 cfs figure agreed upon in 2002 as the minimum flow necessary at the Rockingham NC USGS flow sensor.  SCDNR stated that SC water users experienced many significant adverse impacts at the 900 cfs releases.  While this figure may not be the most desirable minimum flow, SCDHEC stated the following in their comments.  “Our monitoring showed that the emergency flow of 900 cfs did not cause significant impacts to water quality or fish and wildlife largely because discharges were not discharging at their full permitted limits.” Everyone recognizes that exceptional circumstances require everyone to work together.  We must determine what the absolute limits are and make certain concessions throughout the entire river basin.  NC water users experienced many significant adverse impacts during 2002 as well, but no one stepped up to the plate to help relieve the situation there.  The only reserves held upstream of High Rock Lake are controlled by the US Army Corps of Engineers and they refused to supplement river flow in the Yadkin River when flows dropped as low as 250 cfs. It is imperative that all of the options be weighed and nothing or no one be arbitrarily excluded.

Water is the lifeblood of every community and the sources of this precious resource must be adequately protected.  During periods of drought conditions, the balance of interests must be biased in favor of the environment and conservation.  While there are many sources of electrical power there are very few alternative sources of water.  Therefore, protection of this essential resource is critical. 

In our previous comments we offered the following suggestions for a more fairly balanced and collaboratively defined Drought Contingency Plan:

These simple steps would ensure swift reaction to changing river flow conditions.  They would delay the depletion of the reserves held in NC reservoirs for the longest period of time.  They would fulfill the request of SCDNR who stated, “The goal of this Plan should be to make optimum use of limited drought inflows to simultaneously preserve an appropriate level of storage in the lakes and provide sufficient releases to meet minimum water demands downstream”.

The importance of developing a valid Drought Contingency Plan for Project 2197 became apparent during 2002, but a plan that includes operational variances for High Rock Lake only may be too narrow in scope.  As stated in the Initial Consultation Document for Project 2206 the only required discharge from the Blewett Falls Dam is 150 cfs.  It also documents that approximately 32 percent of the drainage area supplying the water resources at Blewett Falls is actually located downstream of Project 2197.  As the Blewett Falls dam is the actual controlling factor for the river flow in the Pee Dee River it is ironic that no specific plans or requirements have been requested for that facility.  The current discharge requirements for High Rock Lake compared to that of all of the other impoundments in both projects clearly contributes to the current problems.  This emphasizes the assumption that all of the storage capacity and reserves for the entire river basin are held there.  While High Rock Lake clearly covers the largest surface area, Badin Lake and Lake Tillery are much deeper reservoirs and can also provide considerable storage capacity.  Unfortunately, due to the absence of any appreciable discharge requirements at any of the other impoundments, there is no requirement for these reserves to ever become available even if High Rock Lake was completely drained.

Our Request of the FERC

Once again, we respectfully request that the Drought Contingency Plan for 2003 submitted by APGI be rejected as inadequate and incomplete. At the very least it is vague. There are no detailed steps necessary to mitigate the effects of low flow conditions.  For years APGI has enjoyed a lack of regulations that has allowed them to operate almost without restriction.  Their proposed plan appears to be crafted to allow them to continue to operate with minimal consideration of other stakeholders’ interests.  The only specific action included in APGI’s plan is for a limited number of stakeholders to occasionally talk about the conditions to decide if there is a problem and to begin discussions at that time as to what MIGHT be done.  There is really very little need for discussion to decide when to implement corrective actions/changes.  Any time the inflow to High Rock Lake drops close to the required discharge there is a problem and as a preliminary step, the required discharge must be reduced.

 As we requested in our previous comments, 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” for High Rock Lake and Badin Lake 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 allow limited storage capabilities and provide the capacity for short term river flow regulation without altering the overall flow regime of the river. “Run of river” operations incorporating our suggestions for drought contingency would automatically provide the maximum level of protection to all of the defined stakeholders’ interests in the Yadkin-Pee Dee river basin. 

 As stated in our previous comments, the only measurable negative effect would be the ultimate value of the power generated to APGI since generation strictly during peak periods would be more limited than it is now.  Even with the possibility of reduced profits to APGI stockholders, the project would continue to be very economically viable. Since the FERC is not in the business of guaranteeing any particular profit margins to private corporations and is a governmental agency funded by taxpayers, their primary responsibility is to ensure that ALL interests are appropriately considered.   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. 


Respectfully Submitted,

Robert W. Petree

Chairman of the Board