November 29, 2006

Make your plans to attend the High Rock Lake River Rats 19th annual Christmas Benefit this Sunday.  This is the Biggest River Rats event of the year with volunteers working long hours to provide you with fun, food, entertainment and the greatest variety of Items they can find for you to bid on.  Area residents and businesses have already donated lots of quality items for the Fund Raiser and by Saturday they truly hope to have "something for everyone".  They still need more items!!  If you have something NEW you would like to donate please get it to a River Rat member or bring it to the Boat Dock Beach Club during the following times.

Wednesday Through Friday - 6 to 9 pm
Saturday - 11 am to 3 pm

If you have a contact at a local business that has not already donated please encourage them to donate to this worthy cause also.  All of the donations are TAX DEDUCTIBLE and 100% of the proceeds will used to insure LOCAL less fortunate families and children are able to enjoy a truly MERRY CHRISTMAS!!  More details about the event on Sunday can be found on our EVENTS page or the River Rats Web Site.

November 17, 2006

The High Rock Lake River Rats are gearing up for their 19th annual Christmas Benefit.  The fund raising efforts begin with their 7th annual Thanksgiving Bash on Wednesday, Nov 22nd at the Lexington Municipal Country Club featuring "Rockin Horse".  They are a great band playing a wide variety of music. Admission is $15 at the door.  Then on Sunday, Dec. 3rd they will host a fund raising extravaganza at the The Boat Dock Beach Club.  This is an all afternoon event with games, entertainment, free food, door prizes, half and Half raffle, Liquor Basket Raffle, Silent auction and culminating in a live auction of the bigger and nicer items that have been donated for the event.  Items range from an array of gift certificates good at local merchants to NASCAR and Sports items, Race Car Driving experiences, Furniture, Framed Prints by prominent local artists and almost anything in between.  This is NOT a yard sale!  All items are NEW and there is something for everyone!!!  One hundred percent of the proceeds from these events will be dispersed on the following Wednesday to insure LOCAL less fortunate families and children will have food, lights, heat and/or presents for Christmas.  Over the past 9 years the River Rats have given an average of more than $20,000 per year in assistance to over 125 families and more than 1400 children.  The economy of the area has suffered with the closing of local businesses and factories and the River Rats still need additional donations for both the Live and Silent auctions.  If you have an item you would like to donate (cash donation are also accepted) contact any River Rats member or call (336) 859-4026 for more information on how you can help.  An invitation, at least one can of food and a $10 donation per person is all you need for admittance to the benefit.  More information about both events can be found on our EVENTS page or on the River Rats Web Site.  This IS your opportunity to give something back to your community and make Christmas a joyous time for everyone in Davidson County!

Recent heavy rains are pushing a wall of water down the Yadkin River.  Both River flows and Height have set new record highs for yesterday and today with flows cresting near 22,000 cfs and River height cresting at about 16 feet.  Both of these figures are more than twice the previous record highs for these dates and more than 8 times the amount of water normally coming down the Yadkin river this time of year.  Needless to say, for the next week or so expect High Rock to be very muddy and literally filled with floating and submerged debris.  Exercise extreme caution if you go boating to avoid personal injury or damage to your boat.

October 26, 2006

The Fall "spectacular of color" is in full bloom here at High Rock.  If the rains on Friday don't knock all of the leaves off the trees, this weekend might be a great opportunity to enjoy a leisurely fall boat ride to Flat Swamp and enjoy a few hours of natures splendor.  Maybe you'll even get to enjoy watching one of the Bald Eagles living here.  There have been lots of sightings this year in the Abbotts Creek Area.  Sightseeing, bird watching and simply enjoying the views nature has to offer here are actually considered recreational activities and are important in relicensing.  There was actually an entire study devoted to visual aesthetics of the project.

Our Motion to Intervene has been filed with FERC and Alcoa has responded with no objections.  This guarantees we will continue to be involved on your behalf in the formal relicensing process.  Alcoa's recent "Yadkin Report" included the following statement.  "FERC officials are planning to visit the region in early 2007 to solicit public feedback about relicensing the Yadkin Project"  This will be your opportunity to stand up and personally convey to the FERC officials exactly how you feel about the terms Alcoa is proposing for the future operations of High Rock Lake.  Nothing would be finer than a HUGE turnout to oppose the 4/10 proposal they have enticed our Agency representatives into signing with the offer to negotiate the sale of large tracts of land outside the boundaries of the project.  How about taking better care of the natural resources inside the project boundaries?  Just because the head of NCDNR aspires to leave a legacy of land conservation in his wake, doesn't mean High Rock Lake should be  dumped on for another 50 years to accomplish it.  If expanding Morrow Mountain State Park is that important, the state ALREADY has the right to condemn the land and acquire it for fair market value.  As soon as the dates of the public meetings are announced we will post them prominently to be sure everyone who wishes to speak gets the opportunity.  

October 10, 2006

Even though Alcoa has submitted their Agreement In Principal to FERC, the relicensing of Project 2197 is far from over.  There are still several major steps that remain.  FERC must still determine if the terms for future operations of the project are consistent with the terms of the Environmental Policy Act and the Electric Consumers Protection Act of 1986.  Their challenge is to determine if the future operations of the project is in the best interest of the public and if the operations guidelines are “best adapted to a comprehensive plan for improving or developing a waterway”.  FERC has already responded to Alcoa's License Application and Agreement in Principal with a pretty large request for additional data ranging from generator efficiency data to additional modeling scenarios for the future operations of the project.  The modeling requests are obviously geared at further evaluating alternatives to the 4/10 operations proposal at High Rock Lake since there isn't really much controversy about keeping Badin, Tuckertown and Falls near full pond on a year round basis.  One of the significant questions is the effect of a 10 foot drawdown on Duke Power's Buck Steam Plant.  Buck produces more than twice the amount of power as all of Alcoa's dams put together.  This power is a significant part of the "Base Load" capabilities of Duke Power and is important in maintaining the stability of the power grid.  Duke operates their network of generating facilities under the 12.5% "earnings cap" established by the NC Public Utilities Commission in the interest of the public.  They also contribute significantly to the economy of hundreds of communities in NC by employing many thousands of people across the state either directly or by contracting support services.  In contrast to Duke's regulated operation there are independent power producers such as APGI enjoying the FREE use of our natural resources to generate corporate profits in excess of 200%.  These operations employ only a handful of North Carolinians, contribute little to the local economy and these outrageous profits are then sent to the corporate headquarters in Pennsylvania.  It IS in the best interest of the public to insure that such an independent power generating facility is NEVER allowed to adversely affect the operations of the public utility companies delivering electricity to our homes and businesses.  Duke Power possesses considerably more  expertise in the appropriate use and operation of HydroElectric "peaking" facilities than APGI and was commended by FERC for their excellent management of the Catawba chain of lakes during the drought of 2002. Duke submitted a proposal that is only a slight modification of the proposed 4/10 scenario in the Agreement In Principal.  The only real difference is the discharge cutbacks at High Rock Lake to 125% of required project discharge  would occur at 3 foot and 7 foot instead of 4 feet and 10 feet.  At that point, if High Rock Lake continued to fall due to low inflow, discharges would be curtailed to 100% of required project discharge at 4 or 10 feet until such time as the Low Inflow Protocol kicked in.   In Duke's expert opinion, this scenario would have negligible impact on APGI's earning potential while protecting their Buck Steam Plant and would have significant positive environmental, recreational and economic impacts at High Rock Lake.  If you look at Alcoa's Historical Lake Levels page you will see that this proposal is very much in line with how the lake has actually been operated for the last 20 years.  With the exception of a few months in the early fall that will change under either scenario, it is almost a perfect mimic of the historical average lake levels.  The only difference is it removes the temptation to exploit High Rock Lake in the future if power prices soar. This is a prudent and proactive management scenario that and others who refused to sign the Agreement In Principal fully support.

We will be filing our official Motion to Intervene this week.  This will guarantee our right to be a party to future proceedings and continue representing your interests in the remaining portions of the relicensing process.  We will then follow that with DETAILED comments documenting what further changes we believe need to be made to the AIP citing the scientific evidence in the studies performed to support our beliefs.  No dates have been announced yet, but there should be opportunities for you to voice your opinions in future public meetings as well as through written "Comments" to FERC.  Keep in mind that until then, the Alcoa public relations team will be doing everything in their power to keep everyone VERY happy with their management of the lakes.  They know that most people will not go to the trouble to write letters of complaint or opposition when the lakes are full and being managed properly.  It's no mistake that High Rock is essentially full in October and will likely remain way above average until the period for public comment is over.  Enjoy the benefits of it while you can but don't be lured into a false sense of security and forgo your rights to fight for the BEST that we can get for High Rock Lake.  We will all have to live with the consequences for the next 30 to 50 years!!

September 27, 2006

We're BACK!! Sorry for the lack of news updates lately but once and a while you have to dedicate all of your energy to personal goals.  From now on you can expect to see more regular news updates and a series of updates on how hydropower relicensing REALLY works!  Keep your eye on the Events page for updates on upcoming community events too.  Now for a relicensing update.

The Alcoa Public Relations machine is gearing up to convince you the Agreement In Principal is really good and you should like and support it.  It began with press releases touting how much of an improvement it will be over the past and how they tried to address ALL of the participants interests to some extent.  They released the September "Yadkin Report" yesterday and most of it is dedicated to bragging about the enhancements the 27 stakeholders groups agreed to.  We told you before that there are many good things included in the AIP, many of them being long overdue improvements now required to comply with legislation passed in the last 50 years.  If you read the interest statements of many of the 27 groups that signed the AIP there is a wide variety of interests they were representing.  Most of the representatives with statutory authority (State and Federal agencies) were interested in fish and wildlife, water quality, downstream river flows, historical site preservation, endangered plant and animal species, and LAND CONSERVATION.  Many of the Non Governmental groups were also there for many of the same reasons.  Did you notice YOUR recreational interests guaranteed by the Electric Consumers Protection Act of 1986 don't seem to be there?  Then there were a few of us that were there specifically to protect your interests as area residents and visitors.  We totally agree that all of those interests are important.  The big difference is the priorities we placed on YOUR interests as stakeholders DIRECTLY impacted by the operations of High Rock Lake.  After participating in the scoping and review of many of the studies performed, one thing was abundantly clear.  If the water levels at High Rock Lake are kept higher and more stable, MOST of the other issues will take care of themselves. The other difference is the fact that we actually ASKED you what was important to you as residents and recreational visitors.  I feel abundantly safe in saying I am sure NONE of the agencies ever once asked YOU what was important to YOU or gave YOU the opportunity to convey your feelings to them.  Their representatives "Ain't from around here" so they relied on the "educated expertise" of their agencies to determine what was best for you.  In contrast to that mentality, we spent thousands of man hours at numerous area events within a 50 mile radius asking thousands of people who live and play at High Rock Lake what THEY thought needed to change at Project 2197.  Of those we talked to, not a single one ever mentioned the conservation of thousands of acres of land adjacent to Morrow Mountain State Park or the Uwharrie National Forest.  However this land was an important interest to the Secretary of the NC Department of Natural Resources (the head over ALL of the state agencies) and many of the 27 groups who did sign the AIP, so they were willing to compromise elsewhere (High Rock Lake improvements) to get the "opportunity" to "negotiate" the purchase of this land.  We have nothing against land conservation.  We think it a very good thing, but it needs to stand on its own merit!!  Not at the expense of High Rock Lake.  Morrow Mountain State Park is a fine tourism destination for about 400,000 people each year, but High Rock Lake provides nearly 1.5 million "recreation day" opportunities per year.  Do you think Morrow Mountain State Park will send us water when the river flows are low as a thanks for expanding their park?   NOT!!

Although the AIP will be a huge influence on the final decisions of FERC, the fat lady hasn't sung yet.  Almost all of the groups refusing to sign the AIP have direct interests in High Rock Lake.  That's not a coincidence.  No one directly impacted by the future operations of High Rock Lake feels that we should accept the ABSOLUTE BARE MINIMUM of improvements here for the benefit of interests far removed from here.  I doubt those representatives with statutory authority from other areas would compromise on improvements in their own back yard for the benefit of High Rock Lake.  You will still have the opportunity to voice your opinions at FERC required public meetings and through filings submitted to FERC. You can also exert pressure from the top by contacting your elected officials and encouraging them to press for minor changes to the AIP.  In the near future we will publish the far superior operations proposal made by Duke Power in defense of their Buck Steam plant.  It is truly a minor change with negligible impact to Alcoa but provides significant improvements at High Rock.

August 1, 2006

To our amazement and delight, tonight the Davidson County commissioners listened to the people they represent and voted 4 to 3 against signing Alcoa's "Agreement in Principal".  Our thanks go out to Dean Vick of the Concerned Property Owners of High Rock Lake for attending the meeting and encouraging the commissioners NOT to sign the Agreement.  Vick asked the commissioners to be sure they understood the implications of signing the agreement.  He pointed out Davidson County would get very little benefit from signing the document.  It would also make the job of those of us continuing to fight for better terms with FERC that much more difficult.  Commissioner Max Walser, the only commissioner who has been present in any of the negotiations to date also recommended against signing the agreement.  Walser indicated that he felt the proposed drawdown limits were in excess of what would be environmentally good for High Rock Lake.  Commissioner Don Truell then asked Gene Ellis of APGI to clarify the ramifications of signing the document.  Ellis told the commissioners that if they signed the agreement it would mean that they agreed with ALL of it's contents and they would be obligated to fully support ALL aspects of it in future proceedings with FERC.  He also told them as he had told us that there would not be any further negotiations in respect to High Rock Lake levels.  Since few people would obviously totally support every aspect of the document, that was evidently enough to bring several other commissioners to their senses about signing the agreement.  Our hats are off to Cindy Akins, Don Truell, Larry Potts and Max Walser for voting not to sign the Agreement in Principal and protecting Davidson County's right to lobby for improvements in future FERC proceedings.  At this point the City of Salisbury, the Concerned Property Owners of High Rock Lake, Davidson County, Duke Power, The National Park Service,, Stanly County, The US Fish and Wildlife Service, The Yadkin Pee Dee Lakes Project, and the Yadkin Pee Dee Relicensing Coalition have not signed the Agreement and did not ask for extensions of time to sign.  If we can strengthen our alliances with these organizations (several of them DO have statutory authority in the relicensing proceedings) we may still have a shot at motivating our politicians and FERC to support better water level requirements than Alcoa has volunteered to provide at this point.

July 26, 2006

Alcoa has released the final Agreement in Principal from the negotiations process.  This is the culmination of thousands and thousands of man hours of studies, meetings and negotiations concerning the relicensing of FERC Project 2197.  This document represents Alcoa's final offer to settle the terms to be included in their new license by negotiating with all of the stakeholder representatives in the negotiations process.  Monday was the deadline to sign the document and as of Tuesday 20 groups had signed and 15 had not.  Of the 15 who have not signed, 6 of them have requested extensions of time and could sign before the next meeting.  Even though the AIP contains many provisions we are very happy to see included, there were several issues that remain unresolved to our satisfaction so we have not and will not sign the AIP as written.

 The portions we do like are:

What we don't like enough to keep us from signing and supporting the AIP are:

Everyone involved in the relicensing negotiations came with their own goals and no one realistically expected to achieve all of them.  Some came to protect fish and wildlife. Some to protect the downstream river flows.  Others were interested in water quality and/or water allocations.  Still others came seeking land conservation or historical site preservation.  Those with statutory authority (state and federal agencies) are the ones whose signatures are really important so addressing the widest range of their goals was required.  The Secretary of the NC Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources has an extensive background in land conservation and is the head over almost all of the state agencies participating in the negotiations.  That should give you some clue as to why so many tracts of land are included in the AIP instead of focusing strictly on issues native to the river system and project itself.   We came interested in every facet that affected High Rock lake.  Its safe use for recreational purposes, water levels, water quality, fish and wildlife habitat enhancement/protection, and addressing issues important to local residents as well the visiting public.  We went in with reasonable goals and expectations seeking improved water levels and stability, drawdowns limited to no more than 50% of the average depth of the lake, improvements related to recreational safety and a very specific Low Inflow Protocol.  The studies performed supported our goals and the need for changes.  Unfortunately we also went in with no statutory authority.  Any improvements to what is being proposed in the AIP will have to come from the efforts of the public in motivating FERC and their elected officials to represent the interests of their constituents.  We have requested an additional study to address recreational safety as it relates to the proposed Operating Guide for High Rock Lake (which Alcoa has requested FERC to deny) and will continue to champion our cause with FERC and our elected officials through the rest of the traditional relicensing process.   

July 14, 2006

If you missed the River Rats' July 4th fireworks display, you may have missed the largest fireworks display in the state.  The Charlotte Motor Speedway was advertising their 900 shot display as the largest display in the state.  According to Frank Fraley, the River Rats pyrotechnician, those who came to our fireworks were treated to a show of more than 1700 shells.  The show was a little late getting started thanks to the annual July 4th thunderstorm, but once the show started those brave enough to venture back out were definitely treated to one of the best displays ever at High Rock.  The show lasted more than 40 minutes and ended in a spectacular finale. 

If you have been on the water at all this year or looked at any of the recent water sports catalogs, I am sure you have seen the newest "thrill Seeker" toy on the market. It's the "Kite Tube", designed to take the rider airborne. These flying tubes are the latest $500+ water toy for the adventurous types out there. If you are like most of us who have seen one of them in action, your first two thoughts were probably 1) That's COOL!!, and 2) Are they NUTS?  It looks like thought number two is the correct one. On July 13th, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a Recall Notice for the WEGO KITE TUBE (one of the two brands of kite tubes on the market). These "toys" are already responsible for at least two deaths and hundreds of injuries. They have already been banned on a few lakes with many more considering banning them. Just two weeks ago at High Rock, Jay Phillips broke his neck when he plunged uncontrollably into the water at over 30 miles per hour from 50 feet in the air. A quick Google search for "Kite Tube Recall" will produce numerous discussion boards and blogs full of horror stories about the dangers of these new "toys". There seems to be a variety of opinions concerning who might be responsible for many of the accidents. One is that the product itself is inherently dangerous and common sense should tell you to stay away from it. Another is that the boat driver is ultimately responsible for pulling riders faster than the recommended speed causing the tube to soar much higher than is safe. Still another thought is simply that no one can control or predict wind gusts that can cause the tube to soar, roll and/or nose dive unpredictably just as a kite does on a windy day. Many retailers have already discontinued selling them and the manufacturer is offering to exchange them for an equivalent amount of other merchandise. This news video and interview with Jay Phillips from WSOC TV in Charlotte should be all that is necessary to convince anyone who has bought one of these "toys" to protect your friends and family by SENDING IT BACK!!!

June 23, 2006

The biggest lake weekend is approaching quickly and there will be lots of activities on and around the lake.  There will be two fireworks displays on July 4th as well as one on July 8th.  The lake will be crowded  so please be careful.  Remember that all children on the boat under 13 must wear their life jacket at all times.  There will be large numbers of boats on the water at night for the next month so be sure all of your navigation lights are working properly and use them as required.  Also remember to check your fire extinguisher!!  It may be one of the most critical pieces of safety equipment on the boat and you can't afford for it not to work if you need it.  If it is more than 4 or 5 years old you probably should replace it.  There will be a heightened law enforcement presence on and off the water watching for boating regulation violations as well as moving violations on the roads.  As always, they will also be checking boat and car drivers for "Driving while Impaired" so enjoy yourself RESPONSIBLY and avoid a visit to the Rowan or Davidson County jail. We have updated our Events page with all of the events and entertainment we are aware of between now and July 8th.  Check Boat Dock Beach Club's Calendar for all of the activities there as well. 

June 9, 2006

A week and a half ago we posted information alerting you to the dangerously low river flows and the possibilities of the beginning of problems reminiscent of 2002.  The lake had already dropped to 3 feet below full pond with no prediction of significant rains.  Luckily we got a two day river surge just as the weekend began from a good sized thunderstorm north of Winston Salem.  This small surge coupled with the normal practice of APGI to not generate on weekends allowed the lake to recover about a foot and a half but the river flows quickly returned to their dangerously low levels.  The Yadkin River flows are only slightly above those of 2002 and the discharge requirements are exactly the same as they were then but miraculously High Rock Lake has been able to rise instead of plummeting like they did then.  Obviously SOMETHING else is different from 2002.  I guess a little luck with the timing of what little rainfall we have had has been crucial.  Maybe the influence of the Drought Contingency Plan has helped.  Maybe someone is being a little more careful.  Maybe good PR is more important than power generation when your new 50 year license application filed with FERC is getting ready for review and "Public Comment".  Whatever the reason, we are glad to see High Rock Lake being managed responsibly during this critical period of below average rainfall and very low river flows.  Keep up the good work!!!

For all intents and purposes, relicensing "negotiations" have come to an end.  Alcoa will be sending their "Final offer"  to all of the relicensing Authorized Representatives in the next couple of weeks.  As of the last "negotiation" meeting there were elements that many of us could still not live with and we truly won't know until we get their final offer if we will be signing the Agreement In Principal or not.  The High Rock Lake Coalition will then decide as a group whether to sign up and support it or begin our planning for organizing a massive public opposition campaign.  As soon as the offer is released to the public, we will post a copy of it and summarize the changes/benefits included within for you to decide if it meets your expectations as being appropriate for the next 50 years.

It looks like we may be starting another summer fun season with tragedy.  There were reports of a possible drowning at the Pebble Beach recreation area in Flat Swamp late this afternoon.  Witnesses said the 24-year-old white male was swimming when he went under water and didn't come back up. We don't have any other details other than officials are still searching for him but again we would like to stress caution and responsibility when enjoying your time at High Rock.  Nearly 20 people have drowned at APGI lakes since 2000. Alcoa is sponsoring a "Public Safety Campaign" but no matter what they do, ultimately YOU are responsible for your safety when swimming or boating on any of the reservoirs.

We'd like to welcome High Rock Grocery / Cafe 8 to Southmont.  They opened today and offer convenience store items, "pay at the pumps" gas and a menu of breakfast items, sandwiches, pizza, wings  and lunch plates.  They will be open from 5 am to 11 pm.  You can call in orders to be picked up at 798-6597.

Southern BBQ Too will be opening Monday in their new location about a mile up Hwy 8 from their previous location.  They have a diverse menu with daily specials and have been a long time favorite of many Southmont locals.  Welcome back!! 

I received this message from Richard “Bubba” Carter’s son this week who asked me to share it with those of you who knew Bubba.  We will miss him!!

June 2, 2006

High Rock Lake has lost a good friend!  Richard " Bubba" Carter who worked at High Rock Lake Marina and Campground for the past 15 years lost his life to a massive heart attack on May 31, 2006.  Richard loved his customers and it showed.  When he caught your boat he always had a wonderful smile and a "howdy".  When he pushed you off he always had a bit of wisdom for you to take with you.  Richard will be greatly missed by our lake community.

Donations are being accepted at High Rock Lake Marina and Campground for Richards family.  Richard always put a smile on your face, now you can put a smile on his!

May 30, 2006

Remember the Spring and Summer of 2002?  How could you forget?  We were in a long term drought that had reduced the ground water tables and the Yadkin River flows dropped to less than 50% of normal.  The Headwater Benefits clause in Alcoa's license required them to begin discharging more water from High Rock Lake than was coming in and the result was the worst environmental/ecological disaster High Rock Lake has seen since it was created in 1928.  This devastation of one of our premier natural resources is the reason this website and the organization of about 8500 members supporting it exist today.  Don't look now, but IT'S BACK!!!!!  Since 2004, rainfall totals in the Yadkin watershed have been well below normal. To date we are WAY below normal for the entire period.  The 5 wells in the Yadkin River Basin used as drought indicators monitoring Ground water levels are all below their mean (50th percentile) levels.  As you can see in the graph below, the Yadkin River Flows coming into High Rock Lake for the last two months are VERY close to the levels during the same period of 2002.

Alcoa has already voluntarily reduced its power generation in an effort to retain more water in the reservoirs at the recommendation of the group of regulators and stakeholders established in the Drought Contingency Plan created after the disaster in 2002.  On May 14th, we again entered the period that Alcoa is required by their license to discharge an average of 1610 cfs every day which is about equal to or greater than the total amount of water coming into High Rock Lake right now.  In the May 22nd Drought Contingency Plan Update posted on Alcoa's web site they state that "conditions in the watershed have improved slightly" and that the next conference call will not be held for three weeks. The graph doesn't seem to show any improvements around the 14th and High Rock Lake has actually dropped one foot since then.  If the inflows continue to decline and you add evaporation into the equation it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what is going to happen.  Until we see some significant increases in rainfall our only hope for maintaining reasonable water levels is the guidance of the State and Federal agencies participating in the Drought Contingency Plan conference calls.  We sent our concerns to Alcoa and all of the participants toady and asked that they reduce the discharge requirements NOW in a proactive move to avoid a recurrence of the events of 2002.

On a brighter note, the High Rock Lake River Rats will hold their final Fireworks fund raiser on June 9th at the Boat Dock Beach Club.  This will be your last chance to help the River Rats raise the $16,000 it takes to put on one of the finest July 4th Fireworks displays around.  You could also win $1,500 in the process.   You'll find details on our Events and Lake Info pages.

April 27, 2006

On Tuesday we entered the final stage of relicensing. Alcoa Power Generating Inc. filed their official License Application with FERC. We have not had a chance to review all of the documents yet, but at first glance it appears to be VERY much like the Draft we posted back in October. The section everyone is most interested in is the proposed operations for High Rock Lake. Unfortunately, this section has not changed. They are still proposing a "Rule Curve" with a "hard line" of within 6 feet of full pond from April 1st to November 1st with a winter drawdown of up to 12 feet. There is also a corresponding "Soft Line" at 5 ft and 10 ft respectively and contains the June thru August hump of the previous rule curve. As we stated when the "Draft" was released, this proposal is almost a perfect mimic of how High Rock has been operated since 1968. The amazing part is the proposal to limit the discharges from High Rock to 1500 cfs when it drops below the "Soft Curve". This is effectively the same "limit" that caused the devastation in 2002, just worded slightly differently. It is even more amazing when coupled with the fact that they are only proposing to discharge 900 cfs at the Falls dam during these times. I still don't have a clue what they plan to do with the extra 600 cfs.

The letter accompanying the filing did acknowledge that Alcoa is maintaining active, ongoing negotiations with the Authorized Representatives of relicensing interest groups and is hopeful that many of these groups will eventually sign an Agreement in Principal. It also states that if this process is successful they plan to present a final Relicensing Settlement Agreement to FERC that would replace the operational proposal in this License Application. We are optomistic the eventual agreement reached in these meetings will produce an operations scenario that REALLY gives equal consideration to the environment, fish and wildlife, recreation and power generation. Unfortunately that means it will be another 3 to 6 months before we really know if there will be a proposal we can all support or if we need to intensify our fight at the FERC level and begin an intense campaign of submissions to FERC opposing the License Application as written.

As promised we have posted it for you to download and review. It is very large (over 200 mb) so it will take quite a while to download it. We strongly suggest you "right click" HERE and choose the "Save Target" option to download it as it will take forever to open it directly from the web site.


April 12, 2006

Welcome to what promises to be a perfect holiday weekend to open the 2006 recreation season at High Rock Lake.  The weather looks like it will be excellent for water based activities even if the water temperature might be a little chilly for swimming.  The fishing has been very good for the last couple of weeks even though the crappie being caught have been a little on the small size.  If you are planning to come down and open up your vacation home for the summer, please keep one thing in mind while you are cleaning up around the outside of the house.  We are again experiencing moderate drought conditions and everything is very dry.  Since the beginning of 2004 we are over 20 inches below normal rainfall and the Yadkin River flows are running 45 to 50 percent below normal.  If you plan to rake up the leaves around your property, do NOT attempt to burn them.  You may find the winds prevalent around the lake giving you more excitement than you bargained for.  Thanks to the guidance of the committee formed by the "Drought Management Plan" created after the drought of 2002 and Alcoa's agreement to reduce their power generation, the lake levels are recovering nicely from the winter drawdown.  Lets hope this oversight will continue to protect our favorite natural resource until conditions improve.

For those of you looking for a little entertainment in the evening, you are in luck too.  On Thursday night the High Rock Lake River Rats will kick off the weekend with their "Good Thursday" fireworks fund raiser featuring the CRUISERS band and DJ Steve Carter at the Boat Dock Beach Club.  This year will be the 9th year the River Rats have sponsored and organized the Fireworks Celebration and this would be an excellent opportunity for those of you who come from many miles away to enjoy the fireworks over the lake to help out by making a contribution.  This is a very costly event and they need everyone's help to raise the $16,000 needed to make it happen again this year.  You'll find full details on our Events Page.  On Saturday night the High Rock Shaggers will be having their monthly social at the Boat Dock.  Everyone who likes Beach Music and shagging is invited to meet and party with many of your neighbors at High Rock.  You can also find the Boat Dock Beach Club calendar on our events page as well.

If you are looking for somewhere to go and enjoy a nice dinner out, there are several opportunities around the lake.  First, Speedy Lohr's BBQ in Southmont has closed due to the widening of Hwy 8.  This weekend will also be the last weekend for Southern BBQ Too at their present location, but they should reopen in a few weeks at their new location about a mile up Hwy 8.  For those looking for a little more variety on the menu, there is always the ever popular High Rock Boat and Ski Club on the Rowan County side of the lake in Crane Creek.  Finally, if you haven't been to "I Don't Care" at Badin Lake, this might be a great opportunity to check them out.  This is the former Badin Lake Boat and Tennis Club and has been under new management for a little over a year.  It's located on Badin Shores Circle, just before the entrance to Uwharrie Point and is about a 20 minute drive from most parts of High Rock Lake.  They have renovated the facility, have great food and will be featuring entertainment Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. 

March 23, 2006

We heard from NCDNR yesterday. They had just received the missing buoy we asked you to help locate.   They were very appreciative of Brian Weaver contacting them and letting them know where it was.  When they downloaded the data from the temperature recorders it was evident it had been out of the water for quite some time.  They indicated we should expect to see the buoy return soon as they still needed the long term data it was originally intended to collect.  Once it returns, if you should notice it moving out of its location again, please contact us so we can notify them quickly this time so they can complete collecting the data they need.

We have gotten many questions recently concerning Duke Power building a nuclear power plant somewhere above High Rock Lake and altering the Yadkin River Flow.  They were considering the property in Davie County that was evaluated many years ago for the Perkins Nuclear Plant.  They recently announced they have chosen a location in Cherokee County SC.  In the press release on their web site, they stated Duke Power was also considering the preparation of early site permit applications for locations in Oconee County, S.C., and Davie County, N.C.  Early site permits enable them to complete environmental and site suitability reviews, and obtain approval from the NRC for potential nuclear plant sites in advance of actually requesting a license to build and operate a plant.  This would keep the door open on the Davie County property but it would probably be decades before it was actively considered as a potential site for another nuclear plant.  

March 8, 2006

As most of you know, we have been working with Alcoa for almost two years in an attempt to improve public safety issues.  The recent article that appeared in the Lexington Dispatch is yet another indication of the need for better and more visible hazard markings.  So far our BIG success has been Alcoa installing reflective tape on the bridge beams to help reduce the potential of someone hitting their head on the bridge when the water is up.  We are thankful for the consideration but that is NOT exactly what we had hoped for.  We also suggested that the warning and No Wake buoys have flashing lights on top of them.  The idea was to have some lighting to help activate the reflective tape, aid boaters in locating the exact location of the opening under the bridge and to make hazard buoys visible at night.  The improved visibility would avoid boats running over the buoys or hitting the hazards at night.  The majority of the boating accidents in the last five years occurred at night.  At least one of them involved a boat running up onto the roadbed when the operator misjudged exactly where the bridge was located on a dark rainy night.  At this time Alcoa contends that marking hazards is not their responsibility.  It is the job of NC Wildlife.  We proposed the idea to them and eventually they simply responded "NO", without explanation.  I can only guess they fear that if they do it at High Rock they will have to do it at other lakes.  So what is the problem with spending our tax dollars to help protect the public?  Personally we feel it is far more important and far less expensive than the resources devoted to checking life jackets and fishing licenses.  Alcoa then advised us we might have better luck with the bridge lighting by approaching NCDOT since they own the "overhead hazard" stretched over the water.  We tried to be reasonable and never asked for anything as elaborate as the US Coast Guard Bridge Lighting regulations.  We were optimistic when they considered installing a street light at each end of the bridges to help activate the reflective tape and to make the bridges more visible at night.  Unfortunately they eventually also said "NO" without explanation.  It's almost comical they will spend millions of dollars widening highway 8 from Lexington to the lake and displacing half of Southmont's businesses in the process to "improve" access to the lake but consider $20 per bridge per month too much to ensure your safety once you get on the water.  In any event, the way we read the Public Safety Statement on the FERC web site, Alcoa is ultimately responsible for public safety within the boundaries of their project!!  If they can donate new boats to the Sheriffs departments of Davidson, Montgomery and Stanley counties every couple of years, surely they can find a couple of thousand dollars to devote to the safety of the hundreds of thousands of people that frequent High Rock Lake every year.

Have you seen this buoy?  The NC Dept. of Natural Resources needs your help locating the temperature monitoring devices attached to it.  They placed the buoy in Abbotts Creek late last spring about 200 yards north of the Holloways Church Road bridge as part of a project to help improve water quality in High Rock Lake.  When they returned to retrieve them in December, the buoy and the sensors were nowhere to be found.  If you know where it is or what might have happened to it please send us an E-mail and we will pass the information on. We advised them when they installed the buoy that it was in the preferred boating lane and was likely to be run over and destroyed.  Maybe they should have taken our advice and placed a flashing light on top of it.  At least then they could come back at night and find it if it wasn't completely destroyed. 

If you haven't noticed, the Yadkin River flow is way below normal and we are currently classified as "D1" moderate drought.  Currently the lake is about 6.5 feet below full and there were several concerns expressed pertaining to conserving water in the Feb. 27th "Drought Contingency Plan" conference call.  Monday marked the beginning of the Spring "Refill Period" but according to the infamous "Rule Curve" there are no restrictions on power generation or maximum discharges until early April with the lake where it is now.  Consequently Alcoa's posted the following on their web site.  "Given current stream flow, time of year and anticipated refill of High Rock Reservoir for the 2006 recreation season The Yadkin Project will continue operations in keeping with its operating guides."  In case you were wondering, that translates to "Business as usual"

Alcoa's Final License Application will be submitted to FERC within 60 days.  We will post it here the first day it is available for you to read and decide for yourself if years of studies and negotiations have been fruitful or if it is time to begin a letter writing campaign to FERC.

February 10, 2006

The "Substantive Disagreement Meeting" held this week to discuss all of the disagreements submitted in the comments on APGI's Draft License Application was not quite what we had anticipated.  It was not an open discussion or debate concerning the reasoning behind the specific areas of concern in an attempt to resolve them.  In reality, it was simply a detailed verification by Alcoa that they correctly understood the meaning of the comments submitted.  While this is an important step in resolving disputes, we had hoped there would be a little more substance to the meeting.  In the traditional relicensing process, this required meeting would be the time when everyone openly debated their position and sought some type of compromise or resolution.  All of the comments submitted and a transcript of the meeting would then be filed with FERC to document the areas of disagreement.  When the Final License Application is filed with FERC, Alcoa would then submit their reasoning for continuing to disagree with the agencies and stakeholders on any issues that were unresolved.  The comments submitted are part of the public records so we are able to post a copy of the ones we were able to obtain a copy of for you to read.  This gives you a sense of where our agencies and Non Governmental Organizations stand on what was included in the Draft License Application.  Here are the ones for EPA, NCDWR, SCDNR, SCDHEC, USFW, HRLA and SHRL.  Since Alcoa has chosen to use a variation of the relicensing process they call "Communications Enhanced", all of these identified issues will continue to be debated in the ongoing negotiations meetings in an attempt to resolve them.  Unfortunately the negotiations meetings are "closed" meetings and the only portion of them that will become part of the permanent public record at FERC are the end results with minimal accompanying documentation as to why any unresolved issues remain unresolved.  Any unresolved issues will then be "debated" in the traditional way with FERC.  Everyone will have to file detailed comments and supply extensive documentation to support their position.  Then the energy bureaucrats in Washington will decide what is best for NC instead of the real natural resource experts.  Trust me, we prefer not to go there if possible!!  Everyone involved is hopeful the negotiations meetings will continue to be productive and an agreement will be reached that everyone can live with.  This will make it easier for Alcoa to get their License Application approved and could avoid much of the long drawn out "public comment" filings of the traditional relicensing process. 

If you didn't see the "Streams of Growth" editorial in the Feb 9th edition of the Salisbury Post, you might enjoy the perspective it provides in some of the differences in the relicensing process going on right now in the Catawba River basin with Duke Power.

February 7, 2006

Welcome to what just might be the most important year in the history of High Rock Lake and the Yadkin - Pee Dee River basin.  The relicensing processes of Alcoa and Progress Energy will define how all of the lakes along the Yadkin River will be operated in the future to REALLY "Balance" the needs of energy production while adequately protecting fish and wildlife, the environment and the recreation opportunities guaranteed by the Electric Consumers Protection Act of 1986.  We are several years into the process and all of the required technical studies have been completed.  We are now in the final "negotiations" stage of the process but at this time there are still many unresolved issues.  Alcoa released the first draft of their License Application in October of 2005 which in our opinion was little more than a request continue operations as they have been since 1928.  We posted it for everyone to read and solicited your comments.  We compiled your thoughts and submitted our DLA Comments along with all of the other lake interest groups and agency representatives.  At this time lake levels, downstream river flows and a Low Inflow Protocol to protect ALL parts of the river basin in the event of another severe drought are still major topics of negotiations.  Today we will attend the "Substantive Disagreement Meeting" where everyone will discuss the areas of the DLA that they have significant problems with.  As you can see in our Comments, lake levels and the Low Inflow Protocol are still our biggest areas of disagreement.  Alcoa will take the results of this meeting and either modify their Final License Application to be filed with FERC at the end of April, OR provide them with details as to why they continue to disagree with the other stakeholders and agencies involved in the process.  With only two months left before they are required to submit their License Application, it is very probable that portions of it will continue to reflect their desires. Footnotes would be included indicating that the negotiations are continuing and an addendum will be filed in the future to reflect any changes included in the negotiated "Agreement in Principal".  In reality it will most likely be closer to the end of the year before we know exactly what terms and conditions will be included for FERC to base their decisions on.  Rest assured everyone fighting for changes will remain dedicated until the very end.  We are bound from disclosing the contents of negotiations meetings, but we will let you know as soon as any settlements have been agreed to.  We will let you know if and when it is time to begin filing protests with FERC over terms that could not be settled.

Planning is already underway for many of the fun lake based activities that attract thousands of people to High Rock Lake every year.  The High Rock Lake River Rats have begun their efforts to raise the $15,000 it takes to put on one of the BEST July 4th fireworks displays in the area.  This will be their 9th year sponsoring the fireworks and judging from the number of boats on the lake and cars parked on the side of the road, folks come from everywhere to enjoy the spectacle.  Last year the cost of putting on the show went up 50% and it will take several fund raisers if they are going to be able to continue it in the future.  If you have enjoyed the fireworks in the past, please consider participating in one or more of their fireworks fund raisers ( we will list them on our Events page as they happen ) or donating to the River Rats fireworks fund.  You can give donations to any River Rats member or donate using PayPal on the River Rats Web Site.  We will update our Events page with other other lake based activities as we receive them.