Yadkin River

map of yadkin hydro dams
Alcoa Power Generating Inc.

A federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, Thursday took up a long-running dispute between North Carolina and aluminum giant Alcoa over who owns the land under the Yadkin River. As the state appealed a lower court ruling, oral arguments delved into American history, and whether the river has ever been navigable.

An Alcoa dam on Badin Lake.
Julie Rose / WFAE

The battle over hydroelectric dams on the Yadkin River is about to go another round. The state of North Carolina asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Monday to reconsider  approval of Alcoa Inc.'s dam operating license.

Buck Steam Station closed in 2013. Coal ash is stored in basins around the retired plant.
Duke Energy


   New tests have found high levels of arsenic and other chemicals in the Yadkin River, near Duke Energy's retired Buck coal plant in Salisbury. Duke doesn't dispute the test results, but disagrees with environmentalists over what the results mean for water quality.

The $180 million project would include a 21-mile pipeline from Norwood, in Stanly County, to Union County.
Union County

Union County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state. It added 21,000 residents between 2010 and 2015. To keep growing, it needs more water. A public hearing is planned this Thursday, Sept. 1, on the county's plan to tap a new water source - Lake Tillery, on the Yadkin River.

An Alcoa dam on Badin Lake.
Julie Rose / WFAE

Updated 6:15pm
After nearly a century generating power in North Carolina, aluminum maker Alcoa is selling its four hydroelectric dams along the Yadkin River. The buyer is a Maryland company that bills itself as a producer of clean energy.

Julie Rose

  A long-standing agreement that forms the basis of Alcoa's quest for a new 50-year license to operate dams on the Yadkin River is in question. One state agency that signed onto the agreement has pulled out and other signers are pondering the same thing.


An Alcoa dam on Badin Lake.
Julie Rose / WFAE

  The State of North Carolina is taking aluminum giant Alcoa to court over a series of hydroelectric dams on the Yadkin River. It's the latest turn in a decade-long dispute:


An Alcoa dam on Badin Lake.
Julie Rose / WFAE

Alcoa has settled a long-standing dispute with a primary foe in its fight to maintain control of hydropower dams on the Yadkin River.  Stanly County Commissioners voted Monday night to drop their legal challenges against Alcoa, which was a major employer in the region until closing its aluminum smelter in 2002.  

 

Alcoa now makes a profit selling the electricity from those dams and Stanly County has long argued the public would be better served if those dams were under the state's control. 

 

All Things Considered Host Mark Rumsey gets some analysis on the settlement from WFAE reporter  Julie Rose.

 


An Alcoa dam on Badin Lake.
Julie Rose / WFAE

Alcoa has gotten its wish from a judge - the chance to start over in trying to get the approval of state regulators for its dams on the Yadkin River.

Alcoa is in this game for the rights to operate dams on the Yadkin River another 50 years. Right now the company's just a few yards shy of that goal. The final thing it needs is approval from state water quality regulators.

Alcoa and the State Division of Water Quality are at odds about how to move forward with the aluminum company's hydropower license on the Yadkin River.

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