Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Will Yadkin River Trust get another chance?

I missed last week's session of the House Water Resources and Infrastructure Committee, when the panel voted against a motion on a bill to create a Yadkin River Trust that might eventually purchase and operate Alcoa Power Generating's hydroelectric plants on the Yadkin River. Alcoa is seeking a federal license to continue operating the plants, but it has lost some support because it no longer has a large workforce at its Badin plant, a factor that helped the company get a 50-year federal license to operate the project back in the 1950s.

Now the Perdue administration opposes the license at a time when the company is near the end of a long process to renew the license, and a bipartisan coalition of legislators is pushing the Yadkin River Trust bill.

The Senate passed the bill overwhelmingly earlier this session, but the bill's fate is uncertain in the closing days of this legislature. But Committee Chairman Cullie Tarleton, D-Watauga, has scheduled another committee session tomorrow at noon in Room 1228 of the Legislative Building to consider SB 967.


Last week Alcoa was happy with the result when the committee voted 8-6 against moving forward on the bill.

“We applaud the committee for standing up for private property rights and voting against an unprecedented government takeover that could have cost North Carolina $500 million or more,” said Gene Ellis, a spokesperson for Alcoa. “We remain eager for a new license and look forward to implementing the many positive benefits included in the Relicensing Settlement Agreement.”

There's more about the company's view of this bill at http://yadkinproject.blogspot.com/

But this week, proponents of the Yadkin River Trust were working to undermine Alcoa with a report associating toxic PCB levels in fish in Badin Lake with the Alcoa operations at Badin. The N.C. Water Rights Committee's public relations firm, MMIMarketing, released the following about the study.

"John H. Rodgers, Jr., Ph.D., a renowned water quality expert with Clemson University, has released a new study that indicates there is a relationship between the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) used at Alcoa’s Badin Works facility on the Yadkin River and the PCBs found in the fish and sediments in Badin Lake, a 5,300-acre reservoir that empties into the Yadkin through the Narrows Dam. This conclusion adds further evidence that Alcoa is the source of the PCB contamination found in the lake earlier this year. It is also yet another example of how Alcoa has been a poor steward of the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project, which includes four dams and powerhouses along a 38-mile stretch of the Yadkin River at High Rock, Tuckertown, Narrows and Falls Reservoirs in Davie, Davidson, Rowan, Montgomery and Stanly counties.

"Alcoa, a multinational firm, has applied for a new 50-year license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to control, govern and sustain ownership of water flowing from the Yadkin River and continue overseeing its monopoly of hydropower generated by the Project. Opponents of Alcoa’s stewardship of the Project, including the Stanly County Board of Commissioners, have cited the firm’s poor environmental record as a key reason for denying the relicensing. As Badin Lake serves as the primary source of drinking water for Stanly County, a location for fishing and swimming, and an economic driver for the entire Uwharrie Lakes Region/N.C. Central Park and the State of North Carolina, this new link tying the PCBs in fish and sediment in the lake with Alcoa’s own operations strengthens that concern.

"Using 30 fish samples collected Feb. 11 and seven sediment samples collected April 2, Dr. Rodgers compared samples with information on the PCBs used at the Alcoa Badin Works Facility provided by the N.C. Division of Waste Management this year. As PCBs are a family of industrial chlorinated chemical compounds that include 209 possible forms, or “congeners,” he and Dr. Matt Huddleston analyzed the PCB congeners and concentrations in the fish tissue with those in sediment samples from the southwest arm of Badin Lake (near the Alcoa facility), the northwest arm and the northeast arm. Based on their analysis, they reached the following conclusions:

"- There is a relationship between PCB congeners in sediments from the southwest arm of Badin Lake and PCBs in fish from the lake.
- Congeners detected in the fish tissue provided further evidence of sediments as a source of PCBs.
- PCB congeners detected in sediments from the southwest arm of the lake (near the Alcoa facility) have concentrations significantly greater (on the order of 10 to 100 times greater) than sediments from other parts of the lake.
- PCBS congeners in sediments from the southwest arm co-occur more frequently with congeners detected in fish samples throughout the lake than do congeners in sediments from other parts of the lake.
- Fish sampled from the southwest arm of the lake were consistently more contaminated by PCBs than fish collected from other parts of the lake."

There's more. Presumably it will be up on the Web at some point but I didn't see it at www.ncwaterrights.org.


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