Yadkin Project (FERC No. 2197)

Avian Inventory

Final Study Plan

June, 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 the ICD and through discussions with the Wetlands, Wildlife, and Botanical IAG to provide additional necessary information for consideration in the relicensing process.  


The Yadkin Project area comprises a series of four hydroelectric reservoirs located along the Yadkin River from Salisbury , NC to very near its confluence with the Uwharrie River just east of Albemarle , NC .  From west to east, they are High Rock Reservoir (6143 ha), Tuckertown Reservoir (1036 ha), Narrows Reservoir (2166 ha) and Falls Reservoir (83 ha), comprising a total of 9428 ha and 895 kilometers in shoreline length.  Within this reservoir complex there are some 40 islands ranging in size from less than half a ha to 40 ha with cover types ranging from bare sand to mature forest.  The reservoirs contain shoreline in 4 counties:  Rowan, Davidson, Stanley , and Montgomery .  

The project reservoirs and surrounding riparian habitats likely provide significant habitat for a variety of bird species.  At least one endangered species, the bald eagle, has been well documented and continues to be monitored in the project area.  However, many more species are likely to inhabit the project area and may be affected by project operations.  This study is directed at generating an annual bird profile for the Yadkin Project Area.  

Many bird species are now under scrutiny with the formation of the Partners in Flight Bird Conservation Program (PIF) in 1990.  This program is now international in scope and has the support of all 50 states.  PIF has developed priority species lists for each physiographic region of the country.  These lists are based on habitat stability, population size and trend, threats to wintering and breeding sites, etc.  As a result, the lists have been adopted by most state and federal regulatory agencies as legitimate “watch” lists for species of management interest.   This information, in conjunction with data on existing state and federally listed species, will be used to prioritize efforts toward setting up and carrying out a bird survey within the project area.  


The following issues were raised during initial consultation regarding birds at the Yadkin Project:  

To address this issue, the Center for Conservation Biology prepared a draft study plan that was distributed for review and comment to the Wetlands, Wildlife and Botanical IAG for review and comment on April 25, 2003 .  No comments were received on the draft study plan.  


The primary objective of this study is to conduct an inventory of birds for the Yadkin Project area.  Priority will be given to documenting species of management interest or species already listed by state or federal authorities.   Emphasis will also be placed on documenting all species that breed in the area.  Additional efforts will be made to identify species that depend on the area for wintering habitat, or for staging areas during spring or fall migration  

            Survey sites will include 4 main habitat categories:

1)      Mainland uplands

2)      Tributary mouths and marsh lands

3)      Islands

4)      Open water  


The Center for Conservation Biology will be responsible for conducting bird surveys across all four Yadkin Project reservoirs including all priority habitats.  All surveys will be carried out between June 1, 2003 and July 30, 2004 .  All terrestrial surveys will be conducted between sunrise and 5 hours thereafter to take advantage of periods of peak activity for birds. Hours outside of that time period will be used to evaluate access to other sites and conduct data entry.  An exception will be a small number of nocturnal surveys for owls, rails, and nightjars.  The protocol for these surveys will be implemented as follows:  

1)      Mainland habitats –  There appear to be only small areas of mainland habitats within the Yadkin Project boundary including dams and powerhouses and two transmission line corridors:  an approximately 1 mile long transmission line from Narrows development and an approximately 2 mile long transmission line from Falls development.  General area counts for birds will be conducted around the dams and powerhouses given the small size and irregular shapes of habitat patches.  Line transect surveys will be used within the transmission line corridors recording birds along both sides of a centerline.  There will be two parallel transects extending the length of the transmission line corridor for both transmission line segments, contingent on accessibility.

2)      Tributary mouths and marsh lands – There are approximately 18 primary creeks that drain into the Yadkin Project reservoirs.  These areas will be accessed either by boat or nearby road, and will be surveyed using a conventional variable radius transect method, whereby all birds seen or heard are recorded along with their distance from the transect.  The transect line in this case will be the creek or stream center.

3)      Islands – There are approximately 40 islands located throughout the Yadkin Project reservoirs.  Most of the islands are undeveloped. All undeveloped islands will be initially accessed and evaluated for habitat cover and size.  Thereafter, a subset of islands representing each habitat and size class will be visited for surveys.  Surveys will be conducted using a standard area search methodology, where substrate permits, logging all species encountered.  An exception to this will be Pear Tree Island on Narrows Reservoir, which is approximately 40 ha in size.  Point counts will be established on this island.

4)      Open water – All open water habitats will be searched by a combination of boat, airplane, and mainland observation sites.  Aerial surveys are the most efficient tool for waterfowl and will be used for the winter survey period.  

The Center will also compile historical data pertinent to the Project Area as available.  This will include Breeding Bird Survey data and Christmas Bird Count data along with any other standardized surveys that may have been conducted within reasonable proximity to the project area.  


A draft study report will be prepared and distributed to the Wetlands, Wildlife and Botanical IAG for review and comment approximately three months after the completion of data collection.  IAG comments will be addressed in a final study report.  Interim results, such as initial results of seasonal bird surveys may be shared with the IAG as such information becomes available, prior to completion of the draft study report.  The final report will present GPS locations for all survey points and transects.  Bird data will be provided for all survey points with status and distribution information provided for species of management interest.   Historical data will be provided where available (BBS, CBC, etc) in order to generate a more complete species profile for the area.  


Surveys will be grouped into 3 main time periods:  

Breeding Season                 June 1 – July 30, 2003 and/or 2004

            Two surveys will be conducted across all terrestrial and marsh habitats during this period to document breeding species associated with the project area.  

      Fall/Winter                          October 15, 2003 – March15, 2004

            Two aerial surveys will be conducted across all open water and marsh habitats during this period to evaluate significance of the project area to waterfowl.  One ground survey will be conducted of all terrestrial habitats.  

Spring Migration                  March 15 – June 1, 2004    

Three surveys will be conducted across all habitat types during this time.  The beginning of this period represents a transient period for waterfowl and best opportunity to record specific species in migration.  The second half of this period encompasses the peak of shorebird and passerine migration.



Draft Report                       on or about September 1, 2004

Final Report                        on or about December 1, 2004