By Erica Benjamin
Tuesday, August 5, 2008 — By a 2-1 margin, readers of The Stanly News and Press favor relicensing of Alcoa for the next 50 years to water rights on the Yadkin River.
For the past two weeks, the responses of 50 callers were tabulated, with 34 in favor of Alcoa’s relicensing and 16 opposed.
Callers ranged in age from 37 to 88, with 50 percent coming from the 60-70-year age bracket. The towns of Albemarle, Badin, New London, Norwood, Richfield and Stanfield were represented and there were also a few calls from out-of-state.
A hot topic with callers in support of Alcoa is the belief that the county is wasting time and resources fighting the issue and on the study — money that could be better spent in the school system and elsewhere. They also expressed concerns over the qualifications and ability of Stanly County Commissioners to run and maintain the dam.
The majority of those in favor of relicensing believe that Alcoa has been a good steward of the land and water and has followed the strict environmental rules which are in place.
“I don’t believe Alcoa has polluted the lake. If there is pollution, it is probably from septic tanks,” said George Valaoras of Badin.
Lydia Morgan of Albemarle sums up the viewpoint of many of the callers who phoned in their support for relicensing.
“Alcoa has taken care of us for 50 years and I don’t see any need to change,” she said.
Job loss and the belief that Alcoa is benefiting from the river by generating power at the expense of the people was on the minds of many callers and were the primary reasons given for votes against relicensing.
“I don’t trust Alcoa. Alcoa needs to clean up 100 percent of everything they have messed up, including underground water. They need to take the money they get from electricity and clean up the area. The first step is to clean up toxic waste sites. They are using our water resource to make money for themselves. People in the county are misinformed. Lakes could be better controlled by the people who live here. Alcoa’s business is making aluminum,” said Joe Russell Jr. of New London.
Another hot topic is the drawing down of water. Numerous callers expressed concerns about lake levels being low in some areas in relation to others which are at full pond. One caller in particular expressed outrage that lake levels were low during the July 4 holiday weekend.
Not everyone is entirely against relicensing, suggesting instead that the license be renewed but for a shorter term.
“I think the license should be renewed, but not for 50 years. If they were producing jobs, it would be more acceptable,” said Walt Misenheimer of Albemarle.