N.C. Dept. of Administration files suit against Alcoa

North Carolina’s Department of Administration has filed suit to stop Alcoa’s proposed relicensing of four hydroelectric dams on the Yadkin River.

Falls Dam, completed in 1919, sits at Yadkin River mile 234. It is one of four dams built on the Yadkin River by aluminum maker ALCOA. (James Willamore photo, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Falls Dam, completed in 1919, sits at Yadkin River mile 234. It is one of four dams built on the Yadkin River by aluminum maker ALCOA. (James Willamore photo, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Gov. Pat McCrory’s office filed the lawsuit Fri., Aug. 2, in Wake County Superior Court, seeking a judgment that “navigable portions of the Yadkin River bed are the property of the State of North Carolina….” A statement issued by the Dept. of Administration claims that “(the) dams rest, in part, upon land owned by the State of North Carolina.”

The suit picks up where previous legal action left off. Stanly County Commissioners spent local tax dollars to mount a campaign against relicensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which has been in limbo since 2008. That lawsuit was based on water quality issues, and it ended in May, when the Stanly County Commissioners reached an agreement with Alcoa that provided $3 million in cash and 20 acres of land to the county.

In June, a New Hampshire-based private equity firm was denied in its attempt to intervene in the relicensing process.

Alcoa built four dams on the Yadkin – Badin, Falls, Narrows and Tuckertown – to provide power for its aluminum smelting operation at Badin. That plant closed permanently in 2007, and the company has continued to operate the dams to produce electricity that it provides wholesale to public utility companies.

Montgomery County Commissioners have not been part of the legal battles with Alcoa. Six years ago (May 7, 2007), Montgomery County was one of 23 entities that signed a settlement agreement with Alcoa to allow the company to proceed with relicensing.

Gov. McCrory has a long history with public power in North Carolina. He worked for Duke Power for 28 years and is said to be a stockholder in the company. That relationship has caused some to protest his involvement in electric rate hikes pursued by Duke and Progress over the past several months.

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