401 Water Quality Certificate

Alcoa-Yadkin received a 401 water quality certificate from the NC Department of Environmental Quality on October 23, 2015. The quality certificate is necessary to receive a new long-term license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. 

 

The state had denied Alcoa-Yadkin’s application in August 2013, citing a legal dispute over ownership of the riverbed beneath Alcoa’s dams on the Yadkin River. An administrative law judge ruled in May 2015 that the state wrongly denied the 401 water quality certificate for the Yadkin Project. In September 2015, a Wake County Superior Court upheld that ruling and ordered the state to act on APGI’s application within 30 days.

 

Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins noted that in the days leading up to DENR’s decision to deny APGI’s application, “DENR’s customary process of reasoned review collapsed under the pressure of 11th hour action by the Governor’s office and the (Department of Administration), agencies outside of DENR and having no direct responsibility for the protection of water quality or the environment.”

 

Before the Governor’s office inserted itself into the review process, Judge Collins said a final report recommended approving APGI’s application and issuing a water quality certificate for the Yadkin Project.

 

“DENR would have issued a merits based decision on the Application on August 2, 2013, likely issuing a 401 in APGI’s favor, but not for the secret intervention of the DOA and the Governor’s office into the process…” states Judge Collins ruling. “The undisputed facts recited in the Order demonstrate that DENR reversed course at the last minute, only after Executive Branch pressure and the 11th-hour filing of the Lawsuit.”

 

The state’s failure to issue a water quality certificate resulted in the unnecessary delay of water quality protections and improvements. 

 

Dissolved Oxygen Levels Improve As Water Flows Through the Yadkin Project

Alcoa regularly monitors dissolved oxygen levels. Recent data shows that water quality at the Yadkin Project has improved dramatically since the company invested more than $5 million in turbine upgrades and other enhancements at the Narrows Dam to increase the amount of oxygen in the water.

 

Due to upstream conditions, water enters the Yadkin Project at High Rock Lake with low concentrations of dissolved oxygen. After traveling 38 miles down the Yadkin River and passing through four dams operated by APGI, the water quality improves significantly before it is discharged at the Falls Dam.

 

Dissolved Oxygen Levels Improve As Water Flows Through the Yadkin Project

Alcoa regularly monitors dissolved oxygen levels. Recent data shows that water quality at the Yadkin Project has improved dramatically since the company invested more than $5 million in turbine upgrades and other enhancements at the Narrows Dam to increase the amount of oxygen in the water.

 

Due to upstream conditions, water enters the Yadkin Project at High Rock Lake with low concentrations of dissolved oxygen. After traveling 38 miles down the Yadkin River and passing through four dams operated by APGI, the water quality improves significantly before it is discharged at the Falls Dam.

 

Read the 2013 Dissolved Oxygen Report

"We are pleased the State of North Carolina has issued a water quality certificate for the Yadkin Project. The certificate clears the way to a FERC license that will allow us to implement enhanced water quality technology and additional environmental and recreational benefits promised by the Relicensing Settlement Agreement. We have been good stewards of the watershed for nearly 100 years and remain committed to meeting North Carolina water quality standards.”

 

Ray Barham, APGI Relicensing Manager