Yadkin Hydroelectric Project

Final Study Plan

July 23, 2003



Alcoa Power Generating Inc. (APGI) is the licensee for the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project.  The Yadkin Project is currently licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as Project No. 2197.  This license expires in 2008 and APGI must file a new license application with FERC on or before April 30, 2006 to continue operation of the Project.  

The Yadkin Project consists of four reservoirs, dams, and powerhouses (High Rock, Tuckertown, Narrows , and Falls) located on a 38-mile stretch of the Yadkin River in central North Carolina .  The Project generates electricity to support the power needs of Alcoa’s Badin Works, to support its other aluminum operations, or is sold on the open market.

 As part of the relicensing process, APGI prepared and distributed, in September 2002, an Initial Consultation Document (ICD), which provides a general overview of the Project.  Agencies, municipalities, non-governmental organizations and members of the public were given an opportunity to review the ICD and identify information and studies that are needed to address relicensing issues.   To further assist in the identification of issues and data/study needs, APGI has formed several Issue Advisory Groups (IAGs) to advise APGI on resource issues throughout the relicensing process.  IAGs will also have the opportunity to review and comment on Draft Study Plans.  This Draft Study Plan has been developed in response to comments on the ICD and through discussions with the Recreation, Aesthetics, and Shoreline Management IAG, to provide additional necessary information for consideration in the relicensing process.


1.0              Study Objectives

The following objectives were identified for the study.

·        To generally characterize the aesthetic character of the Project area

·        To specifically characterize the aesthetic character of Project facilities and operations

·        To evaluate the effect of existing and alternative Project facilities and operations on aesthetics in the Project area

The geographic scope of this study includes the area within the viewshed of the four Project reservoirs and other Project facilities. 

2.0              Technical Approach

2.1       Conduct General Visual Assessment

ERM will collect and photo-document the general visual character of the Project area, including the following items:

·        Describe the Project area’s visual character, including landscape features (e.g., geology, forest cover) and cultural features (land cover, built features).

·        Determine the Project viewshed based on topographic maps and field visits.

·        Identify key viewpoints/viewsheds of the Project reservoirs and facilities, including views from representative public access points including recreation areas, roads (including nearby scenic highways) and other public vantage points in the Project area.  Such points might include state designated scenic roads, bridge crossings, road overlooks, trails, and Morrow Mountain State Park .

·        Each of these key viewpoints will be evaluated in terms of:
- landscape features/visual character,
- primary viewer group (e.g., recreational users, homeowners, motorists),
- the frequency of viewing, and
- viewing distance of Project facilities (e.g., foreground, middleground, and background).

·        Describe the aesthetic character of existing Project facilities and existing operations.

ERM will use photographic documentation at each of the key viewpoints to record the visual conditions during different seasons and reservoir water levels. 

 2.2       Conduct Aesthetic Resource Analysis

 The evaluation of Project effects on aesthetics will include the following items:

·        Evaluate the compatibility of existing Project facilities and operations with the existing landscape and adjoining land uses.  This analysis will include consideration of the Project area’s scenic integrity and inherent scenic attractiveness similar to the analyses proposed for the Uwharrie National Forest .

·        Evaluate the effects of alternative Project facilities and operations with the adjoining landscape and land uses.  This analysis will again include consideration of the Project area’s scenic integrity and inherent scenic attractiveness and will be compared to the existing condition (e.g., will the proposed alternatives improve or degrade the aesthetics of the Project area).  Common metrics will be developed to facilitate comparison among alternatives (e.g., average water level elevation, or the number of days water levels are below a certain threshold).

·        Evaluate responses to questions on the Recreation Use Assessment survey regarding recreation user’s perceptions of the aesthetic quality of the Project.  These responses can be sorted by season and by water level to determine the effect of these variables on Project area aesthetics.


Unlike the Uwharrie National Forest , the rest of the Project area does not have existing Visual Quality Objectives to use as benchmarks for determining whether aesthetic goals are met.  In this case, the compatibility of the Project features with the surrounding natural and cultural landscape will be used to assess to what extent the Project is affecting aesthetic resources.   

3.0       Reporting

3.1       Draft Aesthetic Study Report and IAG Meetings  

ERM will prepare a Draft Study Report.  The Draft Study Report will be provided to APGI, the IAG, and other interested stakeholders for review and comment.  ERM will attend two meetings with the IAG to discuss the study results and review the draft study report.  

3.2       Final Aesthetic Study Report

ERM will address APGI, the IAG, and other reviewer’s comments on the Draft Study Report and prepare a Final Study Report.   

4.0       Proposed Project Schedule  

This study is expected to require approximately 15 months to complete the preliminary draft report (approximately 12 months of fieldwork and 3 months of analysis and report preparation).