banner
Local Politics

Group: State owns Yadkin River, not Alcoa

Posted December 13, 2011
Updated December 14, 2011

— An environmental group on Tuesday asked that North Carolina officials determine whether the state or Alcoa owns the Yadkin River in Stanly County.

Aluminum giant Alcoa Inc. has asserted that it owns the riverbed near hydroelectric dams the company has operated for decades. Alcoa is wrangling with the state over renewing its license to operate the dams.

Yadkin Riverkeeper said attorneys for the group uncovered a series of five land grants filed in Stanly County dating to 1899 that show more than 500 acres under the Yadkin River between Stanly and Montgomery counties were granted to someone named W. Smithdeal and, eventually, Carolina Power & Light Co.

"Alcoa has repeatedly confused the public for years, claiming the company owns the land under the dams and the lakes on the Yadkin River," Yadkin Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks said in a statement. "If Alcoa cannot prove ownership, they are not entitled to another 50-year license.

"We are demanding Alcoa produce deed of ownership. The Department of Administration must determine the issue of ownership once and for all," Naujoks said.

The group contends that North Carolina owns the river itself as a public trust resource, noting the General Assembly declared it a public highway in 1885, when a number of small dams were removed.

Alcoa spokesman Mike Belwood said the company has had the right to operate the dams for about a century, and the right was reiterated in 1958, when the Federal Power Commission issued a license.

"We've successfully operated the project for nearly 100 years, paying more than $1 million a year in property taxes on the land we own and investing millions in capital to generate clean hydroelectricity," Belwood said in a statement. "Our rights and the law are clear, and to suggest anything different is ridiculous and irrelevant to the current discussions about bringing economic development and new jobs to Stanly County."

Yadkin Riverkeeper argues that North Carolina also is entitled to request payments from the owners of the riverbed deeds, since the land grants were subject to a payment provision.

"The General Assembly should consider charging Alcoa for the use of the river bottom. These deeds specify that the owner would expect to pay when the General Assembly asks for rent," Naujoks said.

25 Comments

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • saneyadkin Dec 14, 6:53 p.m.

    It's pretty obvious that seizing someone else's property, especially if you aren't paying them fair market value, in order to provide "benefits for the people" is socialistic. They do that in Venezuela. We don't do that in the U.S.

  • haggis basher Dec 14, 12:12 p.m.

    "Headline should be "Perdue seizes dams from Alcoa in a Marxist action"."

    Why? Please explain.

  • haggis basher Dec 14, 12:11 p.m.

    "The environmental movement, including the global warming scare, is being using by the liberals, democrats, leftists, marxists, populists, and socialists to strip away our rights and control us."

    as opposed to, say, the rich and the likes of Alcoa?

  • haggis basher Dec 14, 12:07 p.m.

    "quote: "I can assure you, if an "Environmental" group is involved....they're trying to find a way to control you."

    There are treatment for paranoia.

  • Rebelyell55 Dec 14, 9:08 a.m.

    Money talk the rest walk, and no doubt Alcoa is not legal, but that beside the point ain't it.

  • saneyadkin Dec 14, 8:36 a.m.

    Oh, pooh! The Yadkin River Power Co. and Carolina Power and Light (CP&L) have merged into Progress Energy. These deeds are for land south of the Alcoa project. The Yadkin Riverkeeper has gone off half-baked - AGAIN! News outlets really should quit giving him all the attention he clammors for.

  • beccasdogs Dec 13, 7:02 p.m.

    Our family once owned a place called The Bobbitt Hole on the Eno River & the state wanted it for an addition to the Eno River State Park. We owned it rightfully & legally & did not wish to sell it. We did offer to give them the portions that it sounded like they needed, but they wanted all of it. After going before a judge named Bailey & telling him some things that just were not true & paying what THEY said it was worth, they claimed ownership of the property. We always thought giving untrue testimony was a felony. That law apparently does not apply to state employees, at least not in Orange County.

  • mfarmer1 Dec 13, 6:54 p.m.

    >> "Yadkin Riverkeeper said attorneys for the group uncovered a series of five land grants filed in Stanly County dating to 1899 that show more than 500 acres under the Yadkin River between Stanly and Montgomery counties were granted to someone named W. Smithdeal and, eventually, Carolina Power & Light Co."

    Are taxes over due?

  • luv2surffish2 Dec 13, 6:22 p.m.

    quote: "I can assure you, if an "Environmental" group is involved....they're trying to find a way to control you. This will most likely lead to much higher power bills"
    you go that right and also check out whats happening at Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Recreational Area... the environmental whackos have sued the fed (NPS) and they folded as they always do and this will be the same ..your tax dollars will pay their legal fees and we will lose...

  • spamabyss Dec 13, 5:41 p.m.

    Alcoa will lose, even if the deeds are legal. Under "navigable waters" rights or doctrine, NC can seize the water rights and allow a judge to decide what compensation, if any.

More...