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 objective of this study is to evaluate the consistency of existing and proposed Project facilities and operations that are visible from Uwharrie National Forest (UNF) with the Visual Quality Objectives (VQO) of the Uwharrie National Forest Management Plan.  A secondary objective will be to consider the potential auditory effects of Project use on the UNF.  

2.0       Technical Approach  

The Aesthetic Study Plan for the UNF will be conducted in accordance with the USFS’s Scenic Management System (SMS).

2.1              Define Study Area and Identify Key Observation Points  

The first task is to define the study area.  The study area includes that portion of the Project that is within the viewshed of the UNF (i.e., portions of Narrows Reservoir and all of Falls Reservoir and associated Project facilities).  This study will include both views from the UNF and from key viewpoints toward the National Forest.  This will be determined based on a review of topographic maps and field observations, and in consultation with the USFS.  

Once the study area has been defined, ERM will identify Key Observation Points (KOP) that may be potentially affected by the Project features.  These will be viewpoints in common public use areas within the UNF (e.g., campgrounds, shoreline recreation sites, trails, roads, fishing areas).  This will include viewpoints of the Project features (reservoirs, dams, powerhouses, and transmission lines) from UNF out to a maximum distance of four miles from the Project boundary.  This four-mile cutoff corresponds with the near background distance zone as defined within the SMS process.  While it may be possible to see some large Project features beyond this distance, they would have little adverse visual impact at this distance.  These sites will be identified based on field reconnaissance and input from the USFS.   

At each KOP, the following information will be collected:  

·        Photo-documentation of Project facilities

·        Distance from the Project facility

·        Estimated number of viewers annually from this location

·        Context of the viewers (use association and setting)

·        Context of the Project in the surrounding landscape

·        Duration of the view

·        Extent to which Project-related noise can be heard

 2.2              Document Existing Landscape Character

 Landscape Character consists of a combination of physical, biological, and cultural attributes that make a landscape identifiable or unique.  The description of landscape character is based on Ecological Unit Descriptions (EUD) supplemented with existing land use patterns or themes.  The EUD will draw heavily on existing landscape descriptions (e.g., ECOMAP 1993; Bailey 1980) and more detailed habitat mapping from the Uwharrie National Forest Management Plan and for the Yadkin relicensing. 

 The landscape character description provides the frame of reference for defining the Scenic Attractiveness classes.  The three Scenic Attractiveness classes are: distinctive, typical, and indistinctive.  This assessment takes into consideration landform patterns and features, surface water characteristics, vegetation patterns, and land use/cultural features.  This will involve delineating discrete landscape units within the study area and documenting the Scenic Attractiveness class for each unit.  ERM will consult with the USFS in making these Scenic Attractiveness Determinations.

 The final component of defining landscape character is determining Scenic Integrity.  Scenic integrity indicates the degree of intactness and wholeness of the landscape character, as influenced by human alterations.  Assessments of views that include the one or more of the Project reservoirs will take into consideration the normal range of reservoir water levels over the course of the year.  Scenic integrity is measured using a six-point scale ranging from VERY HIGH to UNACCEPTABLY LOW.  ERM will make these determinations using the guidance in the USFS Landscape Aesthetics Handbook.

 2.3              Assess User Attitudes and Sensitivities

 The next step in the SMS process is to incorporate UNF constituent (recreational users, visitors, residents) information.  This task assesses user attitudes about the visual character and quality of the Project area and the effects of Project facilities and operations.  This information will be collected using a visual preference survey.  This survey will include some questions as well as a rating of a series of photographs from the Project area (see Attachment A).  The survey will include questions that address the following issues:

 ·        How important is the visual quality of an area in choosing a place to recreate or visit?

·        How important is the scenic quality of an area to the overall quality of the recreation experience?

·        How would you rate the scenic quality of the Project area relative to other similar areas that you use for recreation?

·        What do you consider the most attractive features of the Project area?

·        What do you consider the least attractive features of the Project area?

·        To what extent has noise affected your recreational experience?

 2.4              Determine Consistency with the UNF Visual Quality Objectives

 Based on the existing landscape character and constituent information, ERM will determine to what extent the existing Yadkin Project meets the UNF Visual Quality Objectives, taking into consideration seasonal changes and varying water levels, under existing Project operations.  ERM will also evaluate whether potential alternative Project operations would meet the UNF Visual Quality Objectives.  ERM will also consider whether Project-related noise is potentially affecting recreational use of the UNF.   

These evaluations will be conducted for each of the KOP and will include an overall assessment.  

2.5              Consultation

 ERM will consult with the USFS and other interested stakeholders periodically through IAG meetings, and other coordination activities (e.g., teleconferences).

 3.0       Reporting

 3.1       Draft Study Report

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

 3.2       Prepare Final Study Report

 ERM will address APGI, the USFS, the IAG, and other reviewer’s comments on the Draft Study Report and prepare a Final Study Report.  ERM will also prepare an electronic copy of the Final Study Report.

 4.0       Schedule

 It is anticipated that this study would require approximately 15 months to complete the draft report (approximately 12 months of field surveys and 3 months of analysis and report preparation).