Local News

Public meeting held on license for Yadkin River dams

Posted July 30, 2010 6:05 a.m. EDT
Updated July 30, 2010 9:40 a.m. EDT

— 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.

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.