More Than 80 Percent Of Speakers Ask State To Deny Or Delay Certification Due To Concerns About Contamination And Sedimentation
[USPRwire, Fri Jan 23 2009] The N.C. Division of Water Quality (DWQ) received strong opposition against issuing Alcoa a Proposed 401 Water Quality Certification for the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project at a public hearing Jan. 15 at the Stanly County Board of Commissioners Meeting Room. More than 80 percent, or 18 of 22, speakers asked DWQ officials to deny or delay the certification due to concerns about contamination and sedimentation associated with Alcoa’s current operations of the four dams that make up the project. The 18 speakers ranged from water quality experts to citizens who rely on Yadkin River for recreation and water usage, including people from Salisbury, Winston-Salem and other communities outside Stanly County, where the Project is located.
In a standing-room-only crowd, North Carolina citizens described how fish in the river have shrunk in size over the years due to contamination and dissolved oxygen levels, and how sedimentation from the dams have caused occasional flooding and water quality problems. They placed the blame on Alcoa for these conditions because of the way it has runs the dams in the Project since receiving a 50-year license in 1958 as well as its failure to address decades of pollution in the air, water and land caused by its smelter at Badin Lake, which ended regular production in 2002.
One speaker, Dr. John H. Rogers Jr., an environmental toxicologist from Clemson University, compiled a report submitted by Stanly County to the DWQ during the public comment period last year. His conclusions raised such significant environmental questions that Alcoa withdrew its original application for the 401 Water Quality Certification and submitted a replacement.
Dr. Rodgers said that Badin Lake, a 5,300-acre reservoir that empties into the Yadkin River through the Narrows Dam, and the area downstream have significant human, health and ecological problems that are and will continue to be affected by Alcoa’s dam operations. He reiterated at the public hearing that research shows numerous ongoing water quality violations and urged further analysis of additional studies on fish and toxic contamination in the river.
Alcoa has applied for a 50-year license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that would allow the multinational firm a monopoly over hydroelectric power on Stanly County’s portion of the Yadkin River. In order to receive that license, Alcoa must first be issued a 401 Water Quality Certification from the state. The DWQ will continue to accept written comments on this matter through Feb. 13. A final decision is expected by March 16.
Among the four speaking in favor of Alcoa’s application were Gene Ellis, the firm’s licensing and property manager, and another Alcoa employee. Ellis insisted that the contamination related to Alcoa’s previous smelting operations on Badin Lake would be addressed, although he did not specify how or when it would do so. He also insisted that water being discharged from Alcoa’s dams on the Yadkin River, which he considered a separate issue from the smelter contamination, is meeting state water quality standards, despite the data opponents presented.
Several speakers opposing Alcoa spoke in favor of the State Trust Concept recently unveiled by the N.C. Water Rights Committee, a group of concerned citizens, business leaders, government officials and others who have joined together to make sure that the citizens of North Carolina are fully informed about the critical issue of the public’s water rights. The Trust proposes ownership and management of the Project on behalf of the citizens of North Carolina, as well as environmental protection and drought management for the Yadkin and surrounding area beyond what Alcoa has offered as part of its relicensing for the Project. It will meet these goals after it is established through the FERC’s current relicensing process and other available legal means.
The full text of the State Trust Concept can be accessed at the N.C. Water Rights Web site at
While the DWQ reviews public comments on the 401 Water Quality Certification, the N.C. General Assembly has directed the Environmental Review Commission to study the impact of granting Alcoa the federal license for the Project. The Commission, consisting of members of the state legislature, will consider and develop proposals and include them in a report due Feb. 1. The options open for the Commission to study and recommend to the legislature include recapture of the license and restoring a natural resource of the state for hydroelectric power to benefit North Carolina citizens, as proposed by the Trust. The Commission can also study and suggest environmental and economic conditions to be placed on a license if Alcoa receives its renewal.
“You simply cannot truly advance the public interest in clean water unless you review all the matters that affect our lake,” said Stanly County Commissioner Lindsey Dunevant.
“The relicensing of this project should be denied in my opinion,” said Dr. Rodgers.
“This is not Alcoa’s money,” said Dr. Steve Scroggins of Winston-Salem, a visiting professor of economics at Virginia Tech, speaking in favor of water rights for North Carolinians. “It’s our money, and we need it.”
About the N.C. Water Rights Committee:
The N.C. Water Rights Committee is a coalition of North Carolina businesses and concerned citizens who have joined this statewide effort to inform citizens of the critical issues and decisions concerning water rights that affect all North Carolinians now and for many decades to come. For more information, visit www.ncwaterrights.org.
MMI Associates, Inc., Public Relations, N.C. Water Rights Committee, Water Rights, North Carolina Water Resources, Water Policy, NCDENR, Department of Environment and National Resource Division of Water Quality, EPA, DWQ, Water Quality Act, Albemarle, Salisbury, Winston-Salem, Dr. John H. Rodgers Jr., Gene Ellis, Dr. Steve Scroggins, Sedimentation
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