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Public meeting held on license for Yadkin River dams

Posted July 30, 2010

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— More than 200 people attended a public meeting Thursday night in Davidson County about aluminum company Alcoa Inc., which operates four hydroelectric dams along the Yadkin River.

Gov. Beverly Perdue's administration is fighting Alcoa's effort to renew a 1958 federal license to operate the dams, which powered an aluminum plant that once employed hundreds.

The dams along the Yadkin River once provided power for Alcoa’s aluminum plant in the area, but that facility closed in 2007. The electricity is now sold on the open market.

State Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco said there are potentially millions at stake, with estimates varying from $20-$100 million. Crisco said $40-$60 million is a fair estimate.

“It’s one of the largest assets of the state and to turn it over for 50 years for essentially nothing is just not good economic sense,” Crisco said.

Alcoa Meeting held on Yadkin River dam licenses

Chuck Melton and his wife, who have lived on High Rock Lake for the past 15 years, blame Alcoa for problems in their area.

“We definitely have sediment issues and we definitely have pollution issues on High Rock,” Melton said.

Melton said the problem is worse about 20 miles down the river in Badin Lake, where there have been concerns for years about dangerous chemicals in the water.

There is currently warning telling people not to eat fish from Badin Lake more than once a week.

“We lived here a long time and hadn’t ever eaten fish out of this water,” boater Pat Coulder said.

Thursday's meeting was locally organized and state officials attended.

Legislators voted earlier this month to create a new state regional commission in the area. This puts the state in a position where they could take over the dams if Alcoa's license isn't renewed, Crisco said.

An Alcoa spokesman said the dams are the company’s property and investment and it isn’t right for the state to come in and take it.

Many House lawmakers agree with Alcoa and are against the government takeover of private property, Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, said.

“They did not buy the house. They rented the house and the lease is up,” Crisco said.


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  • pjneder Jul 30, 2010

    There are so many things wrong with this lopsided report. This type of inflammatory reporting is why I distrust the news in general.

    1. “They did not buy the house. They rented the house and the lease is up,” Crisco said. - That is just stupid. There WAS no house. Alcoa paid for and built the dams and all attendant facilities. They also built many ramps on the lakes and other public services.

    2. Yes, there are environmental concerns related to the long term operation of the plant. Alcoa has been and will continue to spend money to contain and clean up those issues. Do you think that just because the state seizes the property that those issues will magically disappear? No, it will just shift the burden to the state and make it more of a burden on the budget.

    3. Read the financial analysis of Duckman below. There are probably even more deficits than he is projecting (see #2).

    4. Since when has the state typically ever paid MORE wages than a commercial employer?

  • We Care Jul 30, 2010

    @Wheel: That is not HER money hole, it is ours.

  • We Care Jul 30, 2010

    License: 1958 federal license to operate the dams

  • Duckman Jul 30, 2010

    Any of you for the takeover thought about this economically.

    An the initial investment on behalf of the citizens via the State would be pushing $1 billion when you take into account property acquisition, legal fees, basic maintenance of the dams required by law, etc. with a projected $3 billion deficit next year.

    If the sale of electricity is $40 million a year, assuming all that money goes to pay off the debt, that's at least 20-25 years of payments just to get to the point that the State is making any money on the project not taking into account additional monies needed for upkeep and and repairs. Since the State doesn't have the knowledge or manpower to operate 4 hydroelectric power dams, they would have to contract out the operations, maintenance, etc of them. In that event, you'd be paying out a very large chunk of the sale proceeds to pay that company or companies contract. So you are looking at maybe 30-50 years before the project shows positive results for the citizens.

  • Duckman Jul 30, 2010

    What is this lease you all keep referring to??? Alcoa owns the land and the dams. They hold a license from the Federal Gov.

  • Honesty first Jul 30, 2010

    Alcoa was given the opportunity to build the dams and develop power to run their plant. They have closed the plant, and left toxic sediments from this effort. Why should they be allowed to continue to make a profit from a natural resource that should benefit the people of NC? If they still operated the palnt and employeed folks in the area to work in the plant, this would not happen. The folks they employ to operate the power generation operation can work for anyone, even the State of NC. Or even better, license this operation to CP&L of Duke Power for a fee.

  • WHEEL Jul 30, 2010

    Boy, you better not stack one dime on top of another anywhere in NC for the next 2 years or Bev will come after it to fill her bottomless money hole.

  • Dat MoFo Jul 30, 2010

    "Yes, Alcoa has managed High Rock Lake so very well at times leaving it in this condition to protect Badin Lake:


    The picture you posted was taken during the 2001-2002 drought. Jordan Lake and several other lakes in the state had mud flats and dry areas as well. During the drought, High Rock Lake was down 24 feet. A year later, it was at flood stage. Showing a lake that is low during a drought then saying it shows mismanagement is a bit creative.

  • theflyingengineer81 Jul 30, 2010

    j dixon

    DENR issued a 401 permit based on their beleif that the scope of the permit should be limited only to the water being emmitted downstream of the dams. They state that they do not feel that it was their place to make a ruling based on Alcoa's contaminates found near the old plant. Stanly Co. is challenging this permit on the grounds that the state should do its upmost to protect its citizens and therefore should have evaluated all aspects of Alcoa's use of the river.

    FERC has not yet awarded a license and therefore the state has every right by law to submit a competing bid. If FERC awards the state the license then the project will have to be purcased at a price set forth by a FERC governed formula, which, according to ALCOA's own 2008 application was just over $24 million. Not bad for a project that generates an estimated $40 million in PROFIT annually.

    No one is fussing about Dukes power plants because they are a regulated utility. Alcoa is not State regulated.

  • theflyingengineer81 Jul 30, 2010

    Everyone who owns land in the area or operates a business here payes taxes. If alcoa hadnt done it, someone else would have to. This was a very good place to put a hydrodam, as the Badin dam project was begun by a French aluminum producer. At the time, World War 1 broke out, and French assests where called back home. Andrew Mellon in the form of ALCOA had deep pockets and a heavy business hand and bought the project.

    Point being, if Alcoa hadnt built the dams, someone else would have. Dont but them on the golden pedestal for it.

    The most important thing to remember here is that no matter who receives the license, the project will still produce renewable electricity and you can still negotiate your lake levels. Remember that the "project" as defined by the license agreement includes only the dam properties. Not the property along the lake shore that Alcoa owns. Alcoa will still remain a substancial tax payer.