The Realities of Hydropower Relicensing

 We have entered into Phase two of the relicensing process for FERC Project 2197 and we will be participating in the Issue Advisory Groups (IAG) to represent you and your interests.  The other participants in the IAGs will be representatives from NC and SC state agencies, Federal agencies and other Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) from NC and SC such as us.  During this phase each IAG will identify specific issues at each of the lakes in the project that will require studies by experts.  These experts will identify and evaluate the overall impact of any proposed changes in the operations of the project as well as the impact of continuing to operate with no changes.  Based on the input provided during phase one of the relicensing process, the following areas of interest were identified as issues that would most likely require studies to justify the terms and conditions written into the new license for the project.

1.      Water Quality

2.      Fish and Aquatics

3.      Fish Passage and Entrainment

4.      Terrestrial, Wildlife and Botanical

5.      Rare, Threatened and Endangered (RTE) species

6.      Recreation ( local )

7.      Recreation ( regional )

8.      Aesthetics and Visual Quality

9.      Shoreline Management Issues

10.  Cultural Resources

11.  Project Operations and Basinwide modeling

12.  Regional Economics

Once the scope of the required studies is identified, Alcoa Power Generating Inc. (APGI) will be required to provide the funding for each of the studies.  This can be a significant amount of money since most of the consulting firms providing this type of expertise charge as much as $150.00 per hour per consultant.  At the conclusion of the studies the experts will make recommendations as to what changes, if any, should be made.  

While APGI, the governmental agencies and the NGOs may not be in total agreement with each others goals or even with the recommendations of the experts, the end goal of the IAG process is for all of the participants to negotiate an agreement to which they can all say “I can live with that”.  If any group is in total disagreement with the conclusions or recommendations of the experts, their only option is to provide their own expert to evaluate the validity of the study and confirm or refute the conclusions reached by the expert who is being paid by APGI.  At this time, all of the consulting firms retained to conduct the necessary studies are firms that have been under contract with APGI for many years.  This is not to imply that any of the experts would be biased toward the organization paying them but to point out that in the real world such things have happened before.

As stated earlier, any group or agency not agreeing with the conclusions of a study will have to provide at their expense, their own expert and/or legal counsel to support their position.  APGI has just concluded phase two of relicensing for their Tapoco hydroelectric project in western NC and eastern TN and is very familiar with the process as well as what will need to be done to obtain results that are most favorable to them.  APGI recently hired a second consultant to refute the findings of the “High Rock Lake Dredging Study” (we have been told that study cost $150,000) when they were not happy with the conclusions and recommendations of the original consultants.  Most of the governmental agencies have participated in numerous relicensing proceedings and have the expertise to support their opinions on their staff.  The NGOs are generally made up of concerned citizens and may or may not have credible experts at their disposal to evaluate the validity of the studies and the conclusions reached by the original consultants.  Some of the NGOs are national organizations such as “ American Rivers ” or are being backed by special interest groups (mainly from SC) and have funding available to them when needed.  The most “challenged” groups in this respect will be the local groups such as us who are fighting for changes beneficial to local recreational users as well as the businesses and residents of Davidson and Rowan counties.  

Many of the groups participating will have some similar goals.  We are building alliances wherever possible to strengthen our position and we are working as part of the High Rock Lake Coalition to coordinate the efforts of as many groups as possible.  As long as another group does not have a goal that is in direct conflict with our own, we will try to form alliances with them to increase our strength.  Be assured, the groups from SC as well as APGI will be working diligently to ensure that as much water as possible is passed through the dams and dumped into the Pee Dee River .  

Our board of directors has committed themselves to nothing less than success.  We have been in contact with several participants from groups similar to ours who participated in the relicensing of Alcoa’s Tapoco project, some of whom have been through this process more than once.  We asked for their advice on several issues and their recommendations will be used to help maximize our chances of obtaining our goals.  This will mean hundreds of hours of personal involvement over the next 36 months for those actually attending the meetings with many expenses coming out of their own pockets.  If we are not successful it could mean High Rock Lake and the residents of Davidson and Rowan counties are at the mercy of APGI or even the interests from SC for the next 50 years.  We do not feel it is acceptable for private industry or those downstream with their own interests in mind to control what happens here just because they have the funds available to ensure success.  We have made a firm commitment that we will not allow any reasonable amount of money to prohibit us from succeeding.  This is the one area we will need the most help from you.  

When we started this endeavor we were determined to keep our expenses to a minimum and avoid asking for membership dues from those wishing to join our organization.  At that time we felt it was more important to be sure we represented as many people as possible.  We are now a group of approximately 7000 concerned citizens and growing daily.  We will continue to increase our numbers until the whole process is complete and we will NOT require anyone to pay membership dues to join us.  We have held several fund raisers to date and relied on occasional donations to cover our expenses.

Those who have actually participated in this process before have encouraged us to become financially prepared for the coming months.  Their recommendation is for us to raise somewhere between $10,000 and $30,000 to be adequately prepared.  We have decided to create a contingency fund of at least $25,000.  While this would only amount to a little more than $3 from each of our members, we realistically expect only a small percentage will donate.  When the time comes, if we do not have enough funding available we will work with other groups to pool our resources toward common goals.  Additionally we may be forced into having emergency fund raising drives, but we will NOT fail due to lack of funding.  The stakes are very high for everyone involved.  The changes requested by APGI at Lake Santeetlah in the Tapoco project are proof that beneficial changes can be made but they will not come freely or easily.  They went from a 2 month recreational season and a 24 foot winter drawdown to a 7 month recreational season and a 10 foot maximum winter drawdown.  

In making your decision to give, please consider what our success would mean to you personally for the next 50 years.  What would water levels no more than 4 feet below full pond on a year round basis mean to your recreational experiences at High Rock Lake ?  How would it affect the value of your property?  What affect would it have on area businesses and the local economy?  How many tourism related jobs might be created within the region?  Maybe you could set aside just one or two dollars for each recreational outing you will enjoy on High Rock Lake during the next 5 years.  That’s a tiny amount to ensure there is adequate water there when you arrive.  We are not asking anyone to give beyond their means but please consider the above questions and then give whatever you can realistically afford.   Unless you request to remain anonymous, we will list each and every person and business who donates to our efforts on the Sponsors page of our web site. 

If we should have any funds left over when the process is complete, we will let our membership decide what should be done with the funds.  The suggestions made so far include such things as:

  1. Divide the funds equally between several local charities in Davidson and Rowan counties.
  2. Pay for some type of enhancements at the public boat landings that are not included in the new license issued to APGI.
  3. Provide new/improved/additional navigation and warning markers around the lake.
  4. Provide some type of garbage receptacles at areas frequented by bank fishermen.

The possibilities of things beneficial to the lake and the surrounding areas are almost unlimited and many of them will be identified in the studies that will be done in the coming months.  

Thank you for your consideration and generosity!

The Board of Directors  



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Last modified: February 21, 2018