November 28, 2007

This Sunday, December 2nd, The High Rock Lake River Rats will be holding their 20th annual Christmas Charity Fund Raiser.  This is their biggest event of the year and EVERY penny raised will go to those in our community to help make their Christmas one to remember.  Over the last 10 years they have given an average of more than $20,000 per year to help hundreds of families and make Christmas a joyous occasion for thousands of children.  You can help make it happen again this year in two ways.  One would be to donate items to the River Rats.  The bigger the better, but any donation would be greatly appreciated and it is TAX DEDUCTIBLE!!!  The second would be to attend the event and bid generously on the huge assortment of items they will have.  So far they have everything from NASCAR Die Cast cars to furniture items worth more than $1000.  Donations can be brought to the Boat Dock Beach Club on Thursday from 7 to 9 pm and Saturday morning from 11 to 2.  On Sunday, the silent auction will run from 3 to 5:45 and the Live auction will begin at 6.  As always they will have food, a Half & Half drawing and a raffle for a very nice liquor basket.  Come with an open and generous heart, enjoy the fun and help those less fortunate in our community.  Remember,  IT'S FOR THE KIDS!!!!

October 30, 2007

The END is NEAR!!! At least for project 2197 relicensing.  If you didn't see it in the mainstream media, FERC released their Draft Environmental Impact Statement a couple of weeks ago.  As with most corporate and governmental agency endeavors, those who spent the most money and involved lawyers throughout the process appear to have gotten the concessions they wanted.  Everyone else got token concessions (if any at all) to give the illusion that all interests were considered during the process.  To no one's surprise, APGI got almost everything they requested whether they produced adequate justifications or not.  About the only exception was the issue of sediment around the Salisbury water system intakes and increased flooding hazards.  Salisbury spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on their own studies and sent their lawyers to every meeting.  Seems that FERC decided they did have a valid issue and decided APGI would have to fund the mitigation of that problem.  APGI immediately retaliated with a VERY nasty legal discovery request demanding the right to interrogate everyone involved in the Salisbury studies and requiring them to respond to every APGI request within days.  Like many legal "BULLY" maneuvers, the discovery request included pages of definitions for the complicated words included in it such as "and", "or", "each", "every" and "any".  Fortunately for Salisbury the Commission wasn't swayed by the legal bully tactic and notified APGI that they felt there was already adequate information available in the public record and the Draft EIS for APGI to provide comments on their analysis.  Unfortunately for the rest of us, if APGI didn't voluntarily agree to the address our concerns, we got the minimum they were able to negotiate with the parties that signed the Relicensing Settlement Agreement.  In our case, it means the parties signing the agreement were willing to allow APGI to continue winter drawdowns at High Rock as low as 10 feet below full pond even though APGI did not produce a single viable study documenting the need or environmental enhancement of doing so.  They were willing to concede the protection of the environment at High Rock and the safety of those who use it for recreation in exchange for something THEY wanted.  The interests from South Carolina wanted more regulated river flows downstream and in some cases flows that exceeded what would naturally occur in the river basin.  To satisfy this desire they needed access to some of the water stored in High Rock to supplement what would occur naturally so they were fine with drawing High Rock down during what is normally the dry part of the year.  The NC State Agencies and many of the conservation groups participating in the process were VERY interested in acquiring land owned by APGI that was NOT part of the project.  In exchange for the opportunity to purchase thousand of acres owned by APGI they were willing to concede to what amounts to the minimum level of protection at High Rock.  APGI simply stated in their documentation that their 10 foot proposal was better environmentally than their historical practice of drawdowns as much as 13 feet (even though their own web site shows the average drawdown for those months has historically been about 7 feet).  Seems they completely missed the concept that if 10 foot is environmentally better that 13 foot, then common sense is all you need to know that 6 foot would be better than 10 foot. They also completely ignored the fact that anything past a 6 foot drawdown makes nearly all of the 2800+ privately permitted piers (public access points) and boat ramps either unsafe or completely unusable.  The Commission even stated in their Draft EIS that since the drawdowns would occur during what is normally the dry part of the year, they would NOT be effective or considered as a "flood control" measure.

The FERC has scheduled what is likely to be the LAST public meeting pertaining to the relicensing of Project 2197.

Date: November 14, 2007
Time: 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. (EST)
Place: James Varick Auditorium
Address: Livingstone College, 701 West Monroe Street,
Salisbury, NC 28144

I'm a little surprised they couldn't find somewhere a little more obscure for the final meeting to be held.  This will be YOUR LAST CHANCE for those who are DIRECTLY affected to request the Commission to "Do the Right Thing" and limit the winter drawdowns to no more than 6 feet.  Ask them to explain to the people they are supposed to be representing why they would allow a plan that is obviously inferior environmentally to the one proposed by the public.  The Draft EIS already states that it is not for flood control.  There were no studies presented to them to document there was a need or even a purpose for a winter drawdown other than corporate profits to be sent to Pennsylvania.  Ironically, there was actually an increase in annual generating capacity with winter drawdowns limited to no more than 6 feet.  The Commission is NOT responsible for guaranteeing any level of profit to the licensee but the ARE obligated to insure appropriate protection of the environment throughout the ENTIRE river basin.  The Draft EIS recommendations should be purely environmentally based.  They are also obligated to insure the terms of the new license reflects a balance of ALL stakeholder interests, not just the licensee and those downstream whose primary motivation is monetary.  Those who signed the RSA are done with relicensing and are obligated to support it.  They will NOT be there helping you.  To date the Commission has received exactly ONE letter from the public supporting the 10 foot winter drawdown proposal, about 15 that generically supported the RSA (from those who signed it because they got what THEY wanted in exchange) and about 225 opposing the 10 foot drawdowns from those who are directly affected by it.  Almost everyone supporting the RSA did so because they got something from APGI they would not have been able to get otherwise.  In many cases it was something totally unrelated to the Project itself but in the long run was less important to APGI than the right to continue manipulating our natural resources at their discretion for corporate profits.

September 3, 2007

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the variances needed for Alcoa to reduce the discharges from High Rock Lake and balance the drawdowns at High Rock and Badin.  In typical Federal Agency fashion, they didn't necessarily do it quickly.  Even though the Drought Contingency Plan approved by the Agency contained all the provisions necessary to insure changes would not be enacted without adequate involvement of the NC and SC natural resource agency representatives, the Commission just had to delay the implementation with additional questions.  The delays cost us about an additional foot of water at High Rock before the cutbacks could be implemented.  One of the more interesting aspects of protecting the downstream watershed is the fact that High Rock and Badin are the only lakes REQUIRED to suffer during periods of drought.  Lake Tillery is and has been maintained within inches of being full and there are no signs that it will change.  During the Drought Contingency Plan conference call Progress Energy representatives indicated that storage at Tillery COULD become available if necessary but so far there doesn't seem to be any indication that will happen any time soon.  Ironic since Tillery and Blewett Falls are the actual controlling source of the downstream flows important to the rest of the Pee Dee River basin.  The FERC has issued a solicitation for comments and Motions to Intervene pertaining to the downstream cutbacks.  Lets just hope the positive comments in appreciation of the prompt response to adverse conditions outweigh the possible complaints from SC interests about reducing the downstream river flows.

Just in case you missed it (like many of us did) there is a new law you need to be aware of.  Most of us are now familiar with the law requiring you to slow down or change lanes on the highway when approaching a stopped law enforcement officer or other emergency vehicle with their blue lights on.  There is a similar law that requires you to slow down to NO WAKE speeds when within 100 feet of Wildlife Officers or Sherriff boats with their blue lights on.  In narrow channels and creeks the distance requirement is reduced to 50 feet.  The intent is to help protect boaters, officers and emergency workers.  Protect them as well as yourself and avoid an EASY TICKET by being sure to swing wide of stopped law enforcement officers when at all possible or slowing to the appropriate NO WAKE speeds if passing within 100 feet is necessary.    

AUGUST 25, 2007

It looks like everyone involved with the management of the Yadkin River Basin learned their lessons in 2002.  River flows have been decreasing all year.  We have struggled all year with our concerns about the low river flows and have tried diligently to avoid crying "wolf" for many months.  Many times this year we barely avoided the downward spiral of dropping lake levels thanks to a last minute rain storm that saved us for another week or two.   In May, APGI began cutting back their electricity production due to low river flows and Rule 8 of the current Rule Curve used to manage water levels at High Rock Lake.  Unfortunately the continued high temperatures and deceasing river flows eventually began to drain High Rock Lake for the second time in five years.  Thanks to the Drought Management Plan enacted after the drought of 2002 this year should be better for the entire river basin. 

During the Drought Contingency Plan conference call held on August 22nd, all of the parties involved recommended cutting discharges from the APGI project from 1400 cfs to 900 cfs until river flow conditions improved.  They also recommended that withdrawals from High Rock be limited to only 700 cfs until Badin lake reached the same level as High Rock.  This should slow the descent of High Rock for a while and then both lakes will be drawn down at corresponding rates.  Hopefully these measures will be enough to protect High Rock and Badin until some relief from the drought comes along.  Lets hope that happens before things get significantly worse and additional measures have to be implemented.  August through October are historically dry months and everyone is encouraged to do their part to conserve as much water as possible until rainfall levels increase throughout North Carolina. 

The Drought Contingency Plan conference calls will be increased in frequency to improve the reaction time to changing river conditions until the river basin is no longer designated as (D2) severe drought and river flows have risen somewhat.  Our thanks to everyone involved in the DCP conference calls for responding quickly to the adverse conditions this time and implementing these drastically needed changes before things got out of hand!! 

AUGUST 18, 2007

We can always tell when you guys are concerned about the conditions at High Rock Lake.  The first sign is an increase in emails asking questions and the second is a significant rise in visits to our web site.  Both things are now true.  Our site visits have almost doubled in the the last 30 days. 

We have experienced an extremely hot summer throughout the Southeast and power demands (and peak prices) have been very high.  This encourages independent power producers such as APGI to operate at their highest possible capacity. Current river flows coming into High Rock Lake are more than 70% below normal and High Rock has been dropping steadily for weeks. The drought conditions in the Yadkin River Basin are continuing to worsen every day and as you can see by the graph of the Yadkin College flow sensor since April 20th, the ground water resources upstream are drying up.  
Graph of DAILY Discharge, cubic feet per second

Daily discharge statistics, in cfs, for Aug 20 based on 43 years of record more
Most Recent
Median Mean 80th
436 507 1150 1810 2190 2700 9260

Average daily river flows in the Yadkin have been steadily declining since the beginning of the year and the year to date rainfall is once again WAY below average. At this point the river flows are are only slightly higher than they were during 2002. Since APGI is still operating under the old Rule Curve for High Rock Lake they are still required to discharge a daily average of 1400 cfs until September 15th unless operational changes are recommended by the participants of the Drought Contingency Plan. At that rate, with the low inflows being recorded, High Rock can be expected to drop from 6 to 10 inches (possibly more) every week until conditions improve. With the lake already more than 5 feet below full pond many piers and boat ramps are already unusable and many residents have discovered their boats are already sitting on the bottom.

After the 2002 drought the FERC ordered APGI to continue operating under the Drought Contingency Plan developed then. This plan includes recommendations for Quarterly meetings or conference calls of the designated participants. Any time more than 10% of the river basin is designated as being in a moderate drought (D1) as we have been for some time, the meetings or conference calls are supposed to be held monthly. The last conference call was held on June 29th. As conditions have worsened it would have been prudent to escalate the calls to a bi-weekly basis as originally recommended in the DCP but somehow they appear to have been shifted to bi-monthly instead. The next conference call is not scheduled until August 22.  According to the NC Drought Monitor web site, the entire Yadkin river basin in NC has now been elevated to D2 (severe drought) status.  Without significant rain, relief from the ongoing heat wave or operational changes, High Rock lake will most likely be 8 feet or more below full pond before the 1400 cfs discharge requirement ends on September 15th. The bad news is that once Rule 8 of the rule curve expires on September 15th, the remaining rules will actually allow significantly higher discharge rates allowing APGI to actually increase power production and accelerate the rate at which High Rock is falling. The weather forecasters and APGI are most likely hoping the prediction of an active hurricane season this year will push some significant rains over the area and provide some relief from the drought.  Unfortunately it will take prolonged significant rainfall increases to bring the dwindling ground water resources upstream back to normal levels.

Now would be an EXCELLENT time to email or call the NC Dept of Natural Resources and strongly encourage their participants in the August 22nd DCP conference call to recommend operational changes at High Rock until the current drought conditions have improved. You can go to the NC Drought Monitor web site and send them an email message similar to this one we sent them today.

June 20, 2007

Rah - Rah - Rah
Sis - Boom - Bah
Go Duke!   Go Duke!   Go Duke!

Why the sudden outburst of Duke Fever?  Because we LOVE them!!  Not Duke University, Duke Energy!!  Here's why. Back before the FERC scoping meetings were held, we encouraged everyone to attend the meetings and ask FERC to limit drawdowns at High Rock Lake to no more than 6 feet.  There was a great turnout for the meetings.  FERC heard our plea and required APGI to supply the generation and financial information for a 4/6 foot scenario and a 3/6 foot scenario for future High Rock Lake operations . When APGI supplied the requested data, they accurately reported the generation differences but HIGHLY exaggerated the financial losses associated with them.  In early May we filed what appeared to be the only challenge to the figures provided and demonstrated to the best of our ability what the financials SHOULD have been based on the figures used throughout the negotiations process.  Unfortunately WE don't have access to the power industry expertise necessary to effectively challenge all of their claimed losses.  Fortunately, it appears that our efforts may have influenced someone with all the right credentials to stand up and be counted also.  Today Duke Energy filed a subsequent challenge that not only clearly supported our contentions, but provided the expertise that could only come from those with access to real world power industry data.  Using real and accurate power sales data spanning several years they truly demonstrated how absurd the figures APGI had supplied really were. They summarized their filing with the following comment:

"Duke believes that APGI should base lake level impact measurements on the rates that were established during the negotiations process or else provide a more detailed explanation of how the value impacts used in its AIR response were derived.  Its explanation should include the generation amounts and prices assured for each of the premium products with simulation results that support its assumptions that the energy shifts eliminate its ability to participate in premium product energy sales."

Lets hope this will encourage FERC to "Do the Right Thing" and base their decisions on the facts as they have been established throughout the relicensing process, not on the hocus-pocus creative accounting methods used by APGI once the negotiations were closed.  I might be wrong but my instincts tell me the only way APGI can win this particular debate is for the "Great and Powerful Almighty Wizard" to come out from behind the curtain and reveal more about their operations and profits than they really want the rest of the world to know.

May 16, 2007

The BassMaster American tournament begins at High Rock Lake on May 17th and 18th.  The pros will blast off from the Southmont landing on Hwy 8 and weigh in each evening at the Greensboro Coliseum.  The top 12 fishermen will then move to Lake Townsend in Greensboro on the 19th.  The top 6 from Saturday will fish the final day for a grand prize of $250,000.  There will be hundreds of spectators watching the pros fish so please be courteous and stay far enough away to allow them to fish without interruptions from the fans.  You can get full details about the event as well as watch the weigh in live at 4 pm each day on the BassMaster web site. 

Clean Water for North Carolina announces a series of public meetings to be hosted in communities along the Yadkin River basin. The Yadkin is the state’s second largest river basin, which supplies water for the needs of over a million residents, as well as agriculture, recreation, and industry. there is a meeting scheduled at Catawba College in Salisbury on May 17 to provide an opportunity for residents along the Yadkin to share their concerns about the River, to learn what efforts are already underway and to sign up for future contacts if they wish to be involved in forming a new organization to protect the River,  Get the full details at the NC Conservation Network web site.

May 12, 2007

The official FERC relicensing process seems to be moving along much more quickly than the negotiations phases ever did.  Many stakeholders requested the Commission to consider alternatives to the 4'/10' operating guide for High Rock Lake being proposed by APGI in their Relicensing Settlement Agreement.  The FERC representatives heard your requests to limit winter drawdowns to no more than 6 feet and REQUESTED APGI to supply data for the generation differences associated with a 3'/6' and a 4'/6' alternative.  On April 26, APGI submitted their RESPONSE to the FERC request and appear to have accurately reported the generation losses associated with each of the alternatives.  In the real world the difference between their proposal and the 3'/6' alternative was less than 0.5% of their projected generating capabilities per year ( 5,300 MWH ).  Based on the values that have been used throughout the relicensing process to value the generation and compare alternatives, this amounts to a difference of $247,135.  APGI REALLY wants to keep the 10 foot winter drawdown capabilities so they attempted to creatively redefine the way these power differences should be valued.  They ignored the fact THEY had actually established the values to be used for all FERC filings and to value the generation of different model runs in June of 2005 at $48.40 per MWH On-Peak and $29.63 per MWH Off-Peak.  This creative new accounting process instantly changed $247,135 into $3,683,200 and produced three sets of generation values, each based on entirely different standards than the "Base Case" used for all comparisons.  Attempting to execute any reasonable type of comparison to determine the real financial impacts is impossible using the data supplied.   If you have a little money to invest you might want to see if you can get their accountants to hold onto it for about 30 days.  With any luck they'll be able to give you back 15 times the amount you gave them too.  We have filed a COMMENT with the Commission challenging APGI's attempt to change the standards used throughout the relicensing process.  We encouraged them to base their evaluations on environmental considerations and reject this blatant attempt to change the rules used for nearly two years and grossly overstate the financial impact.  We also encouraged all of the other negotiations participants to protest as well since it should not have any bearing on their requirement to support the RSA they signed.  Only time will tell if any of them are really interested in doing "The Right Thing" or simply protecting the "Bargained for Benefits" they received by agreeing to requiring only the bare minimum of changes to protect the environment at High Rock Lake.  The FERC just released Scoping Document SD-2 and documented the issues they will be evaluating during their Environmental Assessment.  We are very pleased to see they have included the evaluation of alternative operating guides for High Rock Lake as many stakeholders requested in the public scoping meetings as well as in written comments submitted to the Commission. Now we can only wait to find out if we have given them enough compelling evidence to persuade the Commission to mandate something other than 4'/10' for the future.

April 24, 2007

Have you found the little Easter Egg we hid on the Lake Info Page yet?  It's a hidden link to our latest addition to let you know what's happening on the lake and what the weather conditions really LOOK like here.  The next time you check the Lake Info page for the weather conditions here at the lake, try clicking on the ICON that represents the current weather conditions (sunny, partly cloudy, rain etc.) and you will be able to SEE for yourself what it looks like outside when you look our my front window.  If you click on the camera icon you will get a fresh picture every 10 seconds and the video tape icons will play you a video of the last hour, the current day or all day yesterday.  It's still in the development stages and we are searching for a way to locate it so the view is of Abbotts Creek looking SSW toward the Hwy 8 bridge.  Drop the webmaster an email and let us know what you think.

April 15, 2007

Today marks the beginning of an important period at High Rock Lake. April 15th is the beginning of the "voluntary stabilization period" for fish spawning.  This means Alcoa is committed to maintaining High Rock within 1 foot of the level it is on that day for the next 30 days. Alcoa tried diligently to pull High Rock down as much as possible before today to give them as much flexibility as possible during this stabilization period.  In the process they successfully dewatered 66% of the high quality fish habitat used by many species for spawning.  Fortunately good old Mother Nature must be on our side and provided significant quantities of rain just in time and pushed the lake up to within a foot of full pond.  The good news now for the fish and everyone else is High Rock lake should remain within 2 feet of full pond until May 15th.  Enjoy it while it lasts!!!

Just when everyone thinks the relicensing process is done, a new step in the process begins.  APGI has completed the studies required, submitted their initial License Application, concluded their negotiations with the Authorized Representatives of various stakeholder groups and finalized their Relicensing Settlement Agreement which has been signed by 21 of the 33 Authorized Representatives participating in the negotiations.  What most people did not realize is that this was NOT the conclusion of the process.  It was simply the end of the preparation stages where stakeholders attempted to get APGI to voluntarily agree to "Do the Right Thing" and the beginning of the actual relicensing process directly involving FERC.  FERC representatives then came to Lexington and Albemarle to hold public meetings to determine if all of the issues had been adequately addressed.  Thanks to the hundreds of you attending these public meetings, what they found was that MANY of you did not feel the 21 Authorized Representatives signing the RSA had "Done the RIGHT Thing" to adequately represent YOUR interests as stakeholders in the project.  This doesn't come as a big surprise since about 80% of those signing the RSA were there to protect interests outside the project boundaries or downstream of High Rock Lake.  Since they got what they wanted, it was pretty easy for them to agree to the bare minimum of changes at High Rock Lake and allow APGI to continue operating High Rock almost exactly as they have for decades.  For the most part, the remaining 20% only signed the RSA to protect the few improvements that had been gained at High Rock.  To date we have not seen a single filing praising the benefits of the proposal to operate High Rock Lake as they have for decades, only statements indicating the proposal is acceptable to them since there are improvements being proposed downstream and APGI is agreeing to sell some of their land holdings OUTSIDE the project boundaries. Any process allowing groups of people protecting interests OUTSIDE the project boundaries to sacrifice the protection of the natural resources at High Rock Lake as a bargaining tool to get what THEY wanted is seriously flawed.

On March 13, FERC issued their "Notice of application ready for environmental analysis". This notice opened up a new 60 day period for comments, recommendations, terms and conditions, and prescriptions from all stakeholders in the project.  On March 14th the notified us that our request for an additional study to determine the effect of extreme water level fluctuations at High Rock Lake on recreational boating safety would not be necessary.  They stated they already have adequate topographic data to determine the increase in boating hazards created by 10 foot drawdowns.  The FERC representatives conducting the public meetings obviously heard our requests for limiting drawdowns at High Rock Lake to no more than 6 feet.  In response to those comments, on March 27 the FERC sent a letter to APGI giving them 30 days to provide the modeling data pertinent to limiting drawdowns to no more than 6 feet.  It seems apparent FERC will make their own determination of the environmental appropriateness of APGI's "Bargained for Benefits" as they are referred to in the RSA.  Lets just hope they realize how inappropriate it is for those with no direct interest in High Rock Lake to sacrifice its protection as a "Bargained for Benefit" to obtain their own goals.

On March 28, APGI submitted their "CONSOLIDATED ANSWER OF ALCOA POWER GENERATING INC. TO PETITIONS TO INTERVENE AND COMMENTS IN RESPONSE TO SCOPING DOCUMENT 1".  In that response they specifically addressed our comments and offered their rebuttal to them.  Considering their access to high priced legal experts, their responses seem to lack a lot of credibility.  Their response to our request to limit the new license term to less than 50 years based on the projection of a 44% population increase in the area within the next 25 years was simply; "SaveHighRock provides no specifics or evidence that the present relicensing process is inadequate to permit a license longer than 30 years".  Interestingly enough they offered absolutely NO explanation of how their process DID adequately address the impact of population increases.  The response to our request for improved navigation and hazard markings as described on the FERC Hydropower web site stated our request was "outside the scope of the relicensing process".  Technically it may be, but it doesn't appear to be any more "out of scope" than APGI offering to sell thousands of acres of land OUTSIDE the project boundaries to coerce other negotiations participants to sign off on allowing them to continue operating High Rock Lake as they have for decades.  Their response to our request and supporting arguments to limit drawdowns to no more than 6 feet was almost confusing.  It began with the following list of things that would be improved with a 10 foot drawdown versus a 12 to 15 foot drawdown.  "Limiting the drawdown to 10 ft will protect a greater portion of the reservoir littoral zone from the effects of desiccation and freezing and will enable more organisms and plants to establish themselves in the reservoir. Limiting the winter drawdown will enhance the ability for reservoir refill each spring in time for fish spawning season and the prime spring fishing season. Limiting the winter drawdown to 10 ft will also prevent dewatering of significant areas of the reservoir bottom and so should help to reduce related problems such as sediment re-suspension. The limited winter drawdown will also help to improve the scenic quality of the reservoir during the late fall and winter."  They totally disregard the exponential enhancements to these issues provided by limiting the drawdown to no more than 6 feet.  Our contention that nearly all of the 2800 piers at High Rock were unsafe and/or unusable at a 10 foot drawdown was met with this confusing statement; "Since historic Shoreline Management Plan provisions required an eight foot depth at full pond in order o qualify for a permit to construct a pier, thereby assuring at least 2 feet of water during a 6 foot drawdown, the assertion regarding existing piers is patently false".  I'm not sure exactly what part of "a pier required to reach a depth of 8 feet at full pond would still have 2 feet of water at the end during a 6 foot drawdown" is "patently false" but that IS exactly how my $3 tape measure shows it.  Somehow they totally sidestep the fact that at 10 feet down almost every pier is guaranteed to be COMPLETELY out of the water.  Last but not least they completely avoid addressing the fact there are NO studies supporting the need for or any documented benefits of a 10 foot winter drawdown.

We still have a little less than a month for FERC to hear from stakeholders WITH a direct interest in High Rock Lake who feel the proposal to allow 10 foot drawdowns is unacceptable. The more times they hear it the better.  All we ask is for you to invest about 30 minutes of your time and 39 cents to help ensure the best future possible for High Rock Lake by sending FERC a statement by May 13th supporting our request for modifications to the RSA.  Maybe they will compare the number of letters they get supporting a 10 foot drawdown to the number they get opposing it.  If that's the case it should be a "no brainer" since so far we have seen exactly one letter supporting the 10 foot drawdown so the person could work on their pier and seawall. In the real world that seems to be a minor issue since the people at Badin and Tillery have been building piers and seawalls for 75 years while the lakes remained near full year round.

Again, simply address your comments to:

Magalie Roman Salas
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20426

Reference Project 2197-073 at the top of your comments.


March 11, 2007

Daylight Savings Time has started giving you more opportunities to enjoy a little time on the lake enjoying a your favorite form of recreation at High Rock Lake.  The lake is nearly full, the water is starting to warm up and it won't be long before some of the fish species begin to spawn.  There is still a fair amount of floating debris from the big rainfalls upstream in the last two or three weeks so keep your eyes open for logs and even whole trees as you navigate around the lake.

The period for filing Scoping comments to FERC is officially over.  Even though Alcoa published their Agreement In Principal for the project many months ago, they have waited until AFTER the period for Public Comments ended before releasing the final Relicensing Settlement Agreement.  The RSA is the official agreement APGI will be requesting FERC to use as the basis for formulating the terms of their new license.  How convenient (for them) you weren't allowed to see the official documents until it was TOO LATE for you to submit comments during the time period defined by FERC.   APGI is still trying to get some of those who refused to sign the AIP to come back and sign the RSA.  They have asked the Davidson County Commissioners to consider signing it now and they will be discussing it at their monthly Commissioners meeting on Tuesday evening.  After reading it, we couldn't find any changes improving their management of High Rock Lake or any incentives that would benefit Davidson County in any way .  We encourage everyone who cares about the future of High Rock to remain steadfast and united in asking FERC to "Do the RIGHT Thing" and include more appropriate terms for the management of High Rock in the new license.  There is nothing stopping you from sending FERC a letter now supporting the proposals we offered in our Official Scoping Comments.  In reality you can send them comments at any time and they become part of the official record for the project since you are not requesting that they consider changes that have not already been proposed.  You can read our Official Scoping Comments and view Attachments A, B, C, D and E by clicking on the links.  In the real world, the more times they hear from the general public in support of the changes we requested, the more likely they are to consider them.  Simply address your comments to:

Magalie Roman Salas
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20426

Reference Project 2197-073 at the top of your comments.

February 23, 2007

There are just a couple of days left for you to mail in your comments to FERC pertaining to the relicensing of Project 2197.  Comments must be postmarked by Monday Feb. 26 or you can file them electronically on the FERC web site.  Electronic filing is very easy and takes about 5 minutes but their web site will be down for maintenance until 8:30 Monday morning.  We recently received the final RSA agreement that all of the agencies are expected to sign.  It is very close to the Agreement in Principal.  The only improvement we see is that High Rock Lake and Badin Lake are now linked so that once High Rock reaches it Normal Minimum Elevation (NME) of 4 or 10 feet depending on the time of year, Badin must be drawn down to its NME of 6 feet before High Rock can be drawn down any further.  This is a good thing since we all know Alcoa REALLY likes to keep Badin near full.  Unfortunately they are still insisting on a 10 foot winter drawdown, requesting a 50 year license and have cleverly hidden the request to allow discharges from High Rock at a rate of 125% of the project downstream flow requirements.  This still allows them to pull water from High Rock at a rate 25% higher than they are required to discharge.  After 4 years of participating in these proceedings, we still haven't figured out what they are going to do with all that extra water they want to suck out of High Rock but aren't required to discharge downstream.  Especially when you find the paragraph that allows them to discharge 5% less than they are required to at Falls and still be in compliance.  The bottom line is the more times FERC hears the citizens of NC want drawdowns at High Rock Lake limited to no more than 6 feet to protect the aquatic environment and ensure safe recreation on a year round basis, the better.  Remind them that while High Rock Lake is a large reservoir, it is also VERY shallow. Simply state you are opposed to an operating guide that encourages drawdowns in excess of 6 feet.  Since APGI has stated they intend to operate the lake approximately 1 foot or more above the limit to allow them to "chase peaks" when power prices shoot up a low limit of 7 feet in the winter would suffice to keep the lake at a level that most piers should still be barely usable and recreational boating should still be relatively safe. Remind them the population of the counties surrounding the project are projected to increase by 44% by the year 2030 and a 50 year license would be inappropriate.  Last but not least encourage them to require APGI to improve the hazard warnings and navigation aids as recommended in the Safety Signage at Hydropower Projects on the hydropower page of the Commission's internet site.  Be sure to request they add lights to the top of any warning bouys more than 200 feet from shore or at all of the bridges to allow safe navigation at night.

The Wildlife landing across from Tamarac Marina will be closed through April 19th for improvements.  When complete the parking area will be paved and have 40 marked parking spaces.  If you plan to do some spring fishing remember the only other Access Area on the Rowan County side is Tamarac Marina so you might need to alter your plans slightly as you may arrive and find them with no place left for you to park.

January 18, 2007

The time is here for you to "Do the RIGHT Thing" to help insure the future of High Rock Lake.  Your ONLY opportunity to voice your opinion will be here on Tuesday, Jan. 23rd and Wednesday, Jan. 24th.  We NEED for you and everyone you know who lives in Davidson County and Rowan County to attend one of the Scoping Meetings and encourage FERC to "Do the RIGHT Thing" by requiring APGI to manage High Rock Lake correctly in the future.  We have published a wealth of information for you on our NEW HOME page, our FACTS and REALITIES pages as well as our highlighted contour MAP showing just how devastating a 10 foot drawdown is to recreational access and safety.  The FERC representatives will be seeking YOUR input concerning the effects of lake level fluctuations on Water Quantity, Water Quality, Fish Habitat, Rare Threatened and Endangered Species and Plants, Wetlands, Wildlife and Wildlife Habitat, Aesthetics,  Recreational Access and Recreational Safety issues.  They will also be soliciting input on the effects of the project operations and proposed environmental measures on socioeconomic resources in counties in the vicinity of the project. Your time to speak will be limited so pick a subject of importance to you, arm yourself with as many facts as you can from our pages then stand up and "Do the RIGHT Thing" for the future of our favorite natural resource.  Encourage FERC to limit drawdowns at High Rock Lake to NO MORE THAN 6 FEET under normal conditions and emphasize the benefits to Water Quality, Fish and Wildlife, Recreation, Aquatic Vegetation, Wetlands, and the economy of your community.  Make sure they understand YOU are one of the Stakeholders MOST affected by future project operations and are the one who will have to live with the consequences of their decisions every day for the next 30 to 50 years!!

January 3, 2007

On December 21, FERC officially announced the dates, times and locations for the required public "scoping" meetings in the relicensing of Project 2197 for Alcoa Power Generating Inc.  It is beginning to look like the only way the "Public" will know about them is if you are on the official FERC e-notification list for the project since APGI nor any of the State Agencies involved have bothered to publish the information in any of the normal public news medias.  Please print some of these FLYERS and post them everywhere the merchants will allow so as many people as possible will know about the meetings.  One can only assume that the less time people have to prepare to speak at the meetings, the less controversy they will have to deal with.  We have posted the details of the meetings on our MEETINGS page, The "Scoping" Document HERE and prepared a page of informative FACTS you might want to consider if you wish to attend and speak at the meetings.  The FERC representatives conducting the meetings will most likely see High Rock Lake for the first time when APGI gives them the quick tour on January 23rd and the bulk of the information they will be using to make their decisions came directly from APGI.  There are only two, two hour meetings scheduled for the tens of thousands of stakeholders who have an interest in High Rock, Tuckertown, Badin and Falls Lakes.  There is little information available on the format of the meetings other than the note that those interested in speaking will have to sign in and clearly identify themselves before doing so.  With the VERY limited amount of time being allocated for the public to voice their opinions and concerns, it is clear they do not intend for anyone to thoroughly address the inadequacies of the License Application and Agreement In Principal in this public forum.  Since the Relicensing Settlement Agreement has still not been signed and published it is impossible for anyone to know exactly which issues might still need further investigation.  Even if you don't stand up and speak, you should  be there to cheer on the ones who do and let FERC know when you agree with the speakers comments and feel the subject needs further investigation.

For now we encourage everyone who lives in any community surrounding the project or uses High Rock Lake for recreational purposes to attend the meetings and support the concept that FERC should "Do The RIGHT Thing".  The concept is really pretty simple.  For the most part everyone generally knows what the "Right" thing to do is if you give "corporate profits" and "shareholder returns" the proper priority. Here's a quick outline of how we feel the priorities should line up.

  1. Responsible operation of the installed hydroelectric facilities should be continued.  It would be foolish not to take advantage of the unique operational capabilities of this environmentally friendly way of producing power.  Operation of the facilities should always be in a "Load Following" manner to best leverage the quick on/off and limited run time capabilities of hydroelectric power generation.  This is the preferred mode of operation for public utilities operating under the regulations of the NC Utilities Commission and is the reason they were able to keep their lakes at reasonable levels during the drought of 2002.
  2. The negative impacts of the operation of the project to the Yadkin - Pee Dee River system should be kept to a minimum. This means not only the riverine portions of the watershed but the aquatic environments within the impoundments as well. The scientific studies performed as part of the relicensing process all produced the same conclusions and recommendations. Higher, more stable water levels in all of the impoundments will provide the highest levels of protection for fish and wildlife, recreation, emergent wetlands, water quality, important aquatic vegetation and area economics. It also encourages a closer mimic of the natural river flow below the last dam in the system.
  3. The unique characteristics and deficiencies of each impoundment MUST be considered and addressed when making decisions concerning the operating guidelines for the reservoir, not just how to squeeze an extra megawatt hour out of it.  High Rock Lake is designated as impaired by the State of NC.  The operation of the project should be in a manner that directly addresses the documented impairments at High Rock Lake, not just in the tail waters of the dam.
  4. State and Federal Agency recommendations should be based solely on facts. Any deviation from the findings and recommendations of the scientific studies should be based on their impact within the watershed and within of the official boundaries of the project, not on enhancements to unrelated projects.
  5. The terms of the Electric Consumer Protection Act of 1986 must truly be honored. Operating guidelines should be formulated based on EQUAL consideration of power generation, fish and wildlife, water quality, recreation and the economic impact/contribution of the project to surrounding communities. Special considerations should be limited to changes that are in the best interest of documented stakeholders in the project and the citizens of NC.

We have also updated our HOME page with a short primer on how Hydropower Relicensing REALLY works.  As you have probably already figured out, there are HUGE amounts of money at stake here and as usual those with the most money and/or powerful positions will find a way to work around the system and trample on the rights of the average citizen.