July 31, 2010

If you missed the Public Meeting at David County Commissioner Cathy Dunn's house on Thursday, you missed a golden opportunity to ask questions and learn the FACTS about the efforts of our Governor and our NC legislators asking Congress to exercise their option to recapture Project 2197.  Opponents have called this effort a "Grab of Private Property" and insinuating there were sinister motives behind the effort but so far no one has produced any verifiable documentation to substantiate this rhetoric.  Deputy Attorney General Faison Hicks dispelled many of these rumors and emphasized the recapture process is simply the execution of contract law.  The process is defined in the Federal Power Act and is a part of the Project License issued by FERC in 1958.  The terms are clearly defined and Alcoa agreed to these terms and conditions when they applied for and received the FERC Project License in 1958.  Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco was there representing his office and as a spokesman for the Governor.  He offered an open invitation for anyone concerned about the project's future to meet with him and the appropriate agency representatives to negotiate a legally binding and enforceable contract concerning the project operations should the state ultimately obtain control of the project.  The meeting was a great introduction of those supporting recapture of the project and the groups joining together to form the Yadkin River Alliance.  Rest assured those of us participating in the Yadkin River Alliance will be taking Secretary Crisco up on his offer.

July 27, 2010

If you care about High Rock Lake and the Yadkin River Basin you need to be sure to attend the Public Meeting on Thursday evening at the home of Davidson County Commissioner Cathy Dunn.  Cathy is hosting this opportunity for everyone to hear directly from our NC Legislators about the efforts of the Governor to have the FERC License for Project 2197 recaptured by Congress in the interest of the citizens of NC.  You will have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the effort and how it can ultimately affect you and the future of the citizens on NC.  Hot Dogs and refreshments will be served at 6:15 with the meeting beginning at 7:00.   Check the Events Page for details.

July 12, 2010

For those enquiring minds that want to know, the uncut version of the UNC TV report on Alcoa activities in the Yadkin River Basin can now be watched online.  This is the same 1 hour version subpoenaed and watched by our NC legislators.  This report contains additional footage not shown in the three reports aired on UNC TV.

July 8, 2010

If you missed the PBS report series on Alcoa and their effect on their employees, the citizens of the Yadkin River Basin and the environmental issues they have created during their term as FERC license holder for Project 2197, you are in luck.  You can watch Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 online.  This is a VERY important issue and no matter what your view is on Federal Recapture of the project, you owe it to yourself to know all the facts when it comes time to decide which side you will choose to support.  You might also be interested in these articles ( WUNC.org article and NewsObserver.com article) pertaining to the creation of the report.

July 5, 2010

It appears NC Public Television has taken an interest in the activities of Alcoa Corporation in Stanley County.  The state's public television network on Monday handed over material from a not-yet-aired series of reports about Alcoa Inc.'s activities along the Yadkin River to lawmakers to comply with a subpoena.  A Senate judiciary committee on Thursday demanded that the general manager at University of North Carolina Television and a correspondent turn over all footage, data and records they had gathered about Alcoa's activities in Stanly County.  You can read the article from WRAL news here.  At this point we have no idea what the report may reveal but it should be of particular interest to all stakeholders within the Yadkin River basin.  The three-part report will be broadcast at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

July 2, 2010

The Board of SaveHighRockLake.org voted this week to join the “Yadkin River Alliance” and support the efforts of the State of NC to have FERC and Congress exercise the option to take over FERC Project 2197 in the “interest of the people” of NC.  After much discussion on the issue of a “State takeover” of private business, the majority of the board chose to view the issue as the simple execution of the terms included in the FERC project license when it was issued in 1958.  When Alcoa Aluminum Co. applied for and subsequently obtained that license the potential for takeover of the Project in the “interest of the public” was clearly spelled out.  Having accepted those terms, Alcoa and their Legal counsel had to clearly understand that obtaining the license in no way guaranteed it would be automatically renewed or “entitled” them to more consideration than the “interests of the people” of NC. 

As the FERC license holder, Alcoa Aluminum Co. was responsible for adhering to all of the applicable terms of the license as well as all applicable environmental regulations.  Based on the significant levels of pollution associated with the aluminum smelting plant, they obviously failed to live up to those responsibilities.   When they realized those environmental atrocities would be a major roadblock to obtaining a renewal of the license, they did what most big corporations would do, they had their legal team figure out how to remove that issue from the relicensing process.  For them it was very simple, just transfer the license to an nice new “clean” subsidiary who could claim total innocence to those “Sins” of the parent corporation.  Interestingly enough they were allowed to use the assets of that parent corporation ( significant land holdings ) to trade for support of the RSA by the majority of the stakeholder groups participating in the relicensing process.  Most of those groups came into the relicensing process looking to get something for themselves instead of being truly concerned about the identified issues within the Project.  We think it is significant that the US Environmental Protection Agency did NOT support the RSA.    

We feel that Alcoa Corporation (regardless of the subsidiary name) should be held totally accountable for all of the issues they are responsible for within the Yadkin River Basin.  We will join forces with other interest groups throughout the Yadkin River Basin to form the “Yadkin River Alliance” and support the passage of House Bill 1099 with minor modifications currently being discussed in order to establish the appropriate infrastructure within the NC government to apply for the FERC license to operate Project 2197 and govern the operations of the project.  

Check the news page often.  Just as during the relicensing negotiations we will post insider updates any time there is news in the effort to regain control of North Carolinas natural resources.      

June 25, 2010

The July 4th holiday is quickly approaching and it appears more people than ever will be vacationing close to home and enjoying the festivities here at High Rock.  You will see an increased law enforcement presence on the lake the weekend before the 4th (June 25-27) as Operation Dry Water begins.  This is the equivalent of the "Booze it and Loose it" campaigns on the roadways.  Anyone operating a watercraft under the influence of Alcohol can expect to get a FREE chauffer driven ride to the local Sheriff's Office in a REAL Police car.  On the evening of the 4th, there will be a spectacular Fireworks display in Abbotts Creek.  They should begin around 9:15 to 9:30, weather permitting.   This is the River Rats annual display and is usually one of the largest fireworks displays in the state. 

June 23, 2010

Thought you might be interested in this recent article from the "Capital Monitor".

Yadkin River Project & the Lady of the Lake

With all the glamour of Hollywood, sans Julia Roberts’ red hair, environmentalist Erin Brockovich is coming to Wake Forest University on June 29th to speak against Alcoa’s license renewal for the Yadkin River hydroelectric project. Described as tough and sexy on her website, Brockovich will fan the flames of the long standing Yadkin River war between Alcoa and its opponents.


Old Smelter Smolders
In 1917, Alcoa built an aluminum smelter in the Stanly County town of Badin. After many years of operations, the plant scaled back production in 2002 and finally closed down in 2007.  Along with the smelter came the development of four dams along a thirty-eight mile stretch of the Yadkin River to generate electricity for the power intensive aluminum business – and therein lies the genesis of the current debate.  The dams created Badin and High Rock Lakes and the hydroelectric complex pays a million dollars a year in property tax, employing thirty workers. Alcoa then sells the juice on the open market.


In one corner, Alcoa is seeking a second fifty-year renewal of their license to generate hydroelectric power from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The company won its first FERC license in 1920 and a fifty-year renewal in 1958.

In the other corner, Governor Perdue and the Stanly County Commissioners want to refuse the license renewal for Alcoa and nationalize the dams. "It's hard for me to understand how a company could own water rights to an entire river basin," Perdue said.


Under the law, the FERC can deny a license renewal and the state can reclaim the water rights by paying Alcoa the money they have invested in the dams.  But there’s a wide disagreement among the parties about the amount Alcoa invested – ranging from $25 million to $500 million. Current law also allows Alcoa to collect a severance payment, the amount of which is also being disputed.

According to Governor Beverly Perdue, it won’t cost taxpayers a dime to buy the dams from Alcoa because the state will issue bonds that will be repaid from electricity sales.


River Trust
If the state takes over the hydroelectric project, it would be owned by a newly entity created by the North Carolina General Assembly – the Yadkin River Trust. That body would be charged with developing the river in Davidson, Montgomery, Rowan and Stanly Counties. The legislation establishing the trust passed the Senate in 2009 but failed in the House.

While tax-exempt, the trust would make payments in lieu of taxes to local governments affected by the loss of private sector assets.

But the fight is about more than hydroelectric power. The trust includes environmental cleanup standards higher than currently required for the old smelter. According to the NC Dept. of Health & Human Services, dangerous levels of PCB’s matching smelter chemicals are present in Badin Lake and fishing warnings are posted.

With her high profile role as an environmentalist heroine, advocates of the Trust are bringing in Brockovich, hoping to pump up the volume in the chemical contamination case like the one in California that made her career


What Next?
The establishment of the Yadkin River Trust enjoys bipartisan support, including backing from Sen. Phil Berger, the Senate Republican leader. But Alcoa successfully allied with property rights groups to block it in the House.

In addition, there may be a split in the environmental community. Trust supporters recently attacked the head of the High Rock Lake Association for having ethical conflicts after his group reached a deal with Alcoa.

And if the FERC pulls the Alcoa license as Governor Perdue requests, it would be the first time they have done so.

Insiders speculate the fight could end with an arrangement where the state gets the dams in exchange for a cap on any cleanup cost Alcoa might eventually face.

After all, one of the tort bar’s queens is on her way.