The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

February 6, 2014

The final barrier

Thursday, February 6, 2014 — When you stand atop the Narrows Dam, you can see for miles in every direction. There’s the Uwharrie National Forest and Morrow Mountain State Park, both remarkable for their pristine, undisturbed beauty. Between them flows the water of the Yadkin River.

That water — and four dams constructed along the river by Alcoa — has been the topic of much debate in Stanly County for more than a decade. Dams, by definition, are a barrier. They capture the water flowing down the river and put it to good use — reservoirs like Badin Lake provide drinking water to local communities, generate clean and renewable energy, create recreational opportunities for people who love to swim, boat and fish, and spur economic development in the surrounding communities.

Alcoa has operated its dams along the Yadkin River for nearly 100 years. But when the company sought a new federal license for its dams, a new set of barriers emerged.

Many people in Stanly County were concerned about the jobs that were eliminated when the Badin plant closed. So shortly after the Badin plant was formally closed in 2010, we immediately began working to redevelop the property. We invested more than $10 million to transform the site into the Badin Business Park, which now ranks among the best industrial sites in North Carolina.

In 2011, Alcoa recruited the nation’s largest electronic waste recycler to Badin. ERI opened a regional recycling center that continues to grow.

Our commitment to jobs helped us reach an agreement with Stanly County last spring. The agreement includes significant investments to support economic development and provides the county with long-term access to clean, affordable water to support the county’s growth. We are now working in partnership with the county to recruit new jobs to the Badin Business Park.

In addition, we continue working to make Stanly County a better place to live. Alcoa awarded scholarships to local high school valedictorians, donated land for a Habitat for Humanity home in West Badin, and donated $20,000 to promote science and technology courses in Stanly County schools.

Only one barrier to a new license remained: obtaining a water quality certificate (known as a 401) from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources that recognized Alcoa’s commitment to meet state water quality standards.

In August, the agency was prepared to issue a 401 certificate for the Yadkin Project.

Our investment in new technology at Badin Lake had resulted in significant water quality improvements. In fact, our annual monitoring now shows that water leaving the Yadkin Project was meeting key water quality standards that will take affect once a new license is issued for the Yadkin Project.

With a proven technology in place and a commitment to spend an additional $80 million to fund further improvements upstream, Alcoa had successfully demonstrated its commitment to water quality.

After months of public hearings and careful evaluation by water quality professionals, DENR was ready to act. It prepared a copy of the 401 certificate and notified us about the impending announcement.

But a new, unexpected barrier emerged. Gov. McCrory claimed the state owned the land under our dams and filed a lawsuit against Alcoa. His administration inserted itself into the regulatory process and insisted that DENR deny our 401 application.

So, once again, we find ourselves in a familiar place: fighting for the right to run the dams we built on the property we own. It’s a clear threat to our property rights – and the rights of anyone who owns property along a waterway in North Carolina.

For Stanly County, the lawsuit has unfortunate consequences. It will further delay benefits such as the expansion of Morrow Mountain State Park, the development of a new waterfront park in Badin, the donation of land for a new water treatment plant, the funding of future economic development initiatives, and a host of other benefits for those who live or play on the lakes.

But our commitment to this community remains steadfast.

We will continue working to improve water quality and protect the beautiful natural resources along the river. We will continue providing time and money to support worthwhile causes in the community. And we will continue paying property taxes on the land we are fighting to protect.

We didn’t pick this legal fight, but we are prepared to defend our property rights in court. No matter how long it takes.

Ray Barham is the Yadkin relicensing manager for Alcoa Power Generating, Inc.

 

1
Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 19, 2014

  • The case for separate beds

    WASHINGTON - The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 19, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Obama's equal pay exaggeration leads us all into danger

    The president's claims of national shame over gender-based pay inequity spring from distorted calculations, as well as some convenient political math.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Teens trading naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 12, 2014

  • Brent Laurenz If you want to vote in primary, you need to register to vote now

    RALEIGH – North Carolina voters will head to the polls on May 6 this year to cast ballots in important primary elections across the state.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Scott Mooneyham Heeding the voter fraud call in N.C.

    RALEIGH – Legislators found the findings outrageous.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Roots

    I took a few minutes over the weekend to enjoy our yard and the arrival of spring. There seems to be so much work that needs to be done, it is hard to decide what to do first. I am excited that I got to run my tiller through the garden. I didn’t go very deep, but I did at least break up the soil. I have a couple of raised beds and the soil in them was in very good shape. I didn’t plant my peas and now after the big rain we got on Monday I realize that I missed a window of opportunity.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 10 tips for surviving a severe allergy season

    My colleague Brady Dennis reported recently that the arrival of warmer weather will soon unleash a pollen tsunami in parts of the country where the winter has been especially long and cold. Here are some survival tips from Clifford W. Bassett, an allergy specialist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine.

    April 11, 2014

  • Is a paleo vegetarian diet possible?

    Research shows most people can follow a regimented eating plan for a short time. That's not the challenge. The challenge is finding a healthful eating plan you can follow day after day and achieve your long-term health goals. At this point, it doesn't appear that the paleo eating plan meets these objectives for most people.

    April 10, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 2.16.35 PM.png Are Americans smart to stop drinking diet sodas?

    Recent data from Beverage Digest suggest many are cutting back on diet sodas. Consumption of diet sodas fell more than that of sugary sodas in 2013. This raises two questions: Why is total consumption declining, and is drinking diet soda harmful to health?

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content