The Yadkin Project History

 

  • 1915: Alcoa purchases an unfinished aluminum smelting complex in central North Carolina from a failing French firm.

  • 1917: Alcoa begins producing hydropower at Narrows Dam (Badin Lake) along the Yadkin River.

  • 1919: To meet the growing power needs of the operation, Alcoa completes a second dam on the Yadkin River at a natural drop in the river known as The Falls.

  • 1927: Alcoa completes the construction of a third dam at High Rock Lake. The reservoir is the largest and most upstream of all the dams.

  • 1958: Alcoa receives a 50-year license to operate the Yadkin Project.

  • 1962: The last of Alcoa’s four hydroelectric dams on the Yadkin River is constructed at Tuckertown.

 

The FERC Relicensing Process

 

  • 1999: Alcoa-Yadkin voluntarily initiates water quality studies in Yadkin River in preparation for relicensing.

  • September 2002: Alcoa-Yadkin begins the relicensing process with a series of public meetings.

  • February 2003: Seven Issue Advisory Groups are formed to identify key issues, recommend studies and provide input. More than 100 people participate in the process.

  • 2003 - 2005: A series of technical studies are conducted to address issues such as water quality, fish and aquatics, wildlife, recreation and cultural resources.

  • Early 2005: Alcoa-Yadkin begins a voluntary settlement negotiations process with nearly 30 organizations. Stakeholders meet regularly for two years to discuss issues and work toward a settlement.

  • April 2006: Alcoa-Yadkin files its license application with FERC. Settlement negotiations continue.

  • August 2006: Alcoa-Yadkin releases an Agreement in Principle signed by 27 organizations.

  • May 7, 2007: Alcoa-Yadkin submits to FERC a formal Relicensing Settlement Agreement (RSA) signed by 23 stakeholder groups. Signatories include the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources and NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

  • Fall 2007: FERC staff issues a Draft Environmental Impact Statement in September 2007. Two public meetings are held in November 2007 to accept public comments.

  • November 2007: The NC Division of Water Quality issues Alcoa-Yadkin a 401 water quality certificate for the Yadkin Project. The certificate is later withdrawn after it is discovered that the NC Division of Water Quality failed to publish a required public notice in a local newspaper.

  • April 2008: FERC staff issues a Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Yadkin Project after two years of study. It recommends renewing Alcoa-Yadkin’s license for the Yadkin Project.

  • April 30, 2008: The original 1958 license expires. The Yadkin Project begins operating under a series of one-year licenses that are automatically renewed.

  • July 2008: Gov. Easley signs into law a bill authorizing a study of water issues along the Yadkin River by the Environmental Review Commission. No study is ever completed.

  • April 1, 2009: Gov. Perdue files with FERC a motion to intervene in the relicensing of the Yadkin Project. The motion, made more than six years after the relicensing process started, is granted.

  • May 2009: A public opinion poll, conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, finds that 82% of North Carolina voters oppose a government takeover of the Yadkin Project.

  • May 7, 2009: The NC Division of Water Quality issues Alcoa-Yadkin a 401 water quality certificate for the Yadkin Project. The certificate is stayed and later revoked.

  • September 18, 2009: Gov. Perdue makes a filing at FERC presenting North Carolina’s case for a federal takeover of the Yadkin Project. FERC does not respond.

  • March 2013: Davidson County Commissioners vote to support the Relicensing Settlement Agreement for the Yadkin Project.

  • May 2013: The Stanly County Commissioners approve an agreement with Alcoa-Yadkin that resolves all issues related to the relicensing of the Yadkin Project. Stanly County announces it will support Alcoa-Yadkin’s application for a 401 Water Quality Certificate and a 50-year FERC license.

 

The 401 Water Quality Certificate

 

  • November 2007: The NC Division of Water Quality issues Alcoa-Yadkin a 401 water quality certificate for the Yadkin Project. The certificate is later withdrawn after it is discovered that the NC Division of Water Quality failed to publish a required public notice in a local newspaper.

  • May 7, 2009: The NC Division of Water Quality issues Alcoa-Yadkin a 401 water quality certificate for the Yadkin Project. The action is appealed by Stanly County and the Yadkin Riverkeeper.

  • May 26, 2009: An Administrative Law Judge stays the Yadkin Project’s 401 water quality certificate over objections from Alcoa-Yadkin and the NC Division of Water Quality.

  • July 7, 2009: Noting that its water quality certificate already under appeal, Alcoa-Yadkin files its own appeal of certain items in the 401 water quality certificate. Its main point of contention is a $240 million surety bond required as a condition of the water quality certificate.

  • December 1, 2010: The NC Department of Natural and Environmental Resources revokes the 401 water quality certificate for the Yadkin Project, alleging that the company withheld information regarding the project’s ability to meet the state’s water quality standard for dissolved oxygen.

  • January 28, 2011: Alcoa-Yadkin appeals the NC Division of Water Quality’s revocation of its water quality certification, stating that the agency was well informed about the functionality of the equipment in question and that the company did not withhold material information.

  • September 27, 2012: An Administrative Law Judge rules that Alcoa-Yadkin can submit a new application for a 401 water quality certificate without forfeiting its legal right to challenge the previous revocation.  

  • September 28, 2012: Alcoa-Yadkin files a new application for a 401 water quality certificate with the NC Division of Water Quality.

 

Legislative Issues

 

  • August 7, 2009: The NC House decisively rejects a bill to create the Yadkin River Trust 66-39 with bipartisan support. The bill would have established a state trust with authority to acquire and operate the Yadkin Project.

  • July 2010: A Senate committee subpoenas an unaired and unauthorized report about the Yadkin Project created by a UNC-TV reporter. The one-sided report is later broadcast by the station. A panel of three UNC journalism professors sharply criticize the report and say it should not have aired. Emails from UNC-TV later reveal that Alcoa opponents helped fund portions of the project. UNC-TV reporter Eszter Vajda is subsequently fired in August 2010.

  • July 2010: The NC General Assembly passes legislation to create the Uwharrie Commission. The commission, which is unfunded and has little authority, was created after efforts to pass the Yadkin River Trust stalled in the legislature.

 

Water Quality Issues

 

  • March 2013: Alcoa-Yadkin releases a report showing that turbine upgrades and other enhancements made several years ago have improved water quality at the Yadkin Project.  Water discharged from the Narrows Dam continues to contain high concentrations of dissolved oxygen, a key indicator of water quality.

 

Redevelopment of the Badin Site

 

  • April 2010: Alcoa announces that it will officially close the Badin Works plant, removing the need to preserve equipment and permits for a potential restart of the plant. Site renovations, including building demolitions, are planned.

  • February 27, 2011: The demolition of a 120’ water tower at the Badin Works site begins the redevelopment of the plant site.

  • May 23, 2011: Electronic Recyclers International, the nation’s largest recycler of electronic waste, announces that it is opening a regional recycling hub in Badin that will create up to 200 new jobs. Alcoa is investing more than $10 million to redevelop the former plant site. 

  • July 16, 2011: More than 750 people attend an ERI job fair in Badin.

  • August 2011: Clean Tech Silicon & Bar LLC announces that it is interested in developing a $300 million manufacturing facility that will create 450 new jobs in Stanly County, NC. The project is dependent on significant investments and subsidies offered by Alcoa. As part of the agreement, Stanly County is asked to support the renewal of Alcoa’s hydro license. 

  • Sept. 9, 2011: Albemarle Mayor Whit Whitley hosts a grassroots rally to demonstrate community support for Clean Tech jobs. A crowd of 750 people urge the Stanly County Commissioners to work toward an agreement that will bring the Clean Tech jobs to Badin. 

  • December 15, 2011: Stanly County Commissioners fail to agree on a plan to bring a $300 million investment and 450 new jobs to the county, effectively walking away from one of the largest economic development projects in the state’s history.

  • May 2012: Alcoa completes the $10 million renovation of a new 165,000 square-foot facility for ERI. The exterior of the facility features advanced “smog eating” technology developed by Alcoa.

  • Summer 2012: ERI moves into its newly renovated facility and begins to expand its workforce. 

  • October 2012: Tucker Engineering, based in Locust, announces that it is launching a new venture that will be locate at the Badin Business Park in 2013. Mabel Systems NC converts biomass, including organic waste, into a clean, renewable gas.