Yadkin Hydroelectric Project
Final Study Plan
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,
, and Falls) located on a 38-mile
stretch of the
. 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.
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 Aesthetic Study Plan for the UNF will be conducted in
accordance with the USFS’s Scenic Management System (SMS).
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
Document Existing 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.
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
What do you consider the least attractive features of the Project
To what extent has noise affected your recreational experience?
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.
ERM will consult with the USFS and other interested stakeholders
periodically through IAG meetings, and other coordination activities (e.g.,
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.
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.
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).