Saturday, November 3, 2012

Lake Going Down

Well, we're going down.  Sure hope you got your boats and docks secured for a couple of months with no water.

Alcoa has received all approvals for the PCB remediation project and has begun to lower the lake.  Looks like they will be lowering it slowly instead of in a big rush.  In fact, they now say that it won't reach its lowest point until Christmas.

Alcoa will be posting updates on the Badin Works blog at http://www.alcoa.com/locations/usa_badin/en/home.asp so you can go there to see what's happening.

.........................Garry

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lake Down 15 feet in November

Haven't had much to say over the last year.  Alcoa has done a good job of keeping the lake level within the target of 0 - 2 feet down since last July 4, even with drought conditions in the Yadkin watershed.  BTW, I just saw that, with the recent substantial rains, North Carolina is now drought-free for the first time in several years.

The saga continues with the state (initiated by Stanly County) trying to block Alcoa from getting their new 50 year license.  The trial over the validity of the 401 Water Quality Certificate is scheduled to begin in December.  That certificate is the only thing still holding up FERC granting the new 50 year license.

I attended a meeting last week on the Badin Lake Sediment Remediation Project.  This is a plan to remove/cap sediments containing carbon and PCBs near the closed Badin Works aluminum smelting facility in Badin.  Alcoa, the NC DENR, and the EPA say that there is no imminent danger from these sediments from runoff that occurred 40 or more years ago, but they want to ensure that there is no possible chance that the sediments will migrate to other areas of the lake.

The plan is to lower the lake 15 feet down in November, 2012.  This will leave all piers and lake access areas high and dry.  They will lower the lake and excavate sediments that are exposed and put a sand/rock cap on those sediments that are still under water.  Alcoa expects the actual construction time to be a week to 10 days in November (lake at its lowest), but it will take some time (weeks) to lower and then raise the level of the lake.  The timeframe is based on getting the necessary approvals in time, so it may be the winter of 2013 instead of 2012 since they don't want to lower the lake in the fish spawning/recreational times.

You can see a brochure (PDF) about it at http://www.alcoa.com/yadkin/en/pdf/20120509_Badin_Remediation_Project_Fact_Sheet.pdf and additional information at http://www.alcoa.com/badin.

Wishing you a great time on the lake this summer.

.....................Garry

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lake Level Warning and Expectations

Alcoa just sent out an email warning that the lake was going below 3 feet down. We appreciate the warning, but I want to relieve some anxiety with information I just received from Alcoa.

Evidently there is only one generator running at Tuckertown, so that limits the flow down from High Rock through Tuckertown to Badin unless they spill water (bypassing the generators) -- something they understandably don't want to do. But they expect the river flow to increase in the next few days with more rain in the mountains and so bring the lake back up, even if they have to spill through Tuckertown.

So the lake was down over the holiday weekend, but we don't expect a repeat of the summer of 2008. We expect the lake to come back up.

...........................Garry

Friday, February 25, 2011

In a Drought but Lake Level OK

Well, it's been awhile since I posted any new news here. Although we are in a drought and it has been worsening, Alcoa Power Generating Inc (APGI) has kept our lake within its target range of 0 to 3 feet down. This is due in large part because we are in winter and there is minimal evaporation off the lakes.

High Rock Lake was intentionally lowered to 10 feet down from the middle of January until the first of March to allow those with permits to dredge and repair piers. (Dredging is not allowed “in the wet” so the lake must be lowered so equipment can be moved in to excavate. BTW this is High Rock only. No excavation is permitted in Badin Lake.)

Because more than 10% of the Yadkin river basin is in drought status, APGI held a Drought Management Team (DMT) meeting on 2/24/11. Although the river flow into High Rock Lake is running at only 38% of historical inflow, everyone reported that operations were normal. (Over 90% of the water flowing through the four dams flows directly into High Rock. Another 5% flows directly into Tuckertown and another 5% flows directly into Badin. Nothing significant flows directly into Falls.)

APGI reported that they plan to start refilling High Rock Lake on March 1 and, based on current inflow of 38%, expect it to be within 4 ½ feet down by April 1. I asked the question about plans for Badin Lake level during that period, and was assured that they would raise it to approximately one foot down from full and hold it there during the fish spawning season.

There was talk about expecting the drought to break soon, based on the long range weather predictions. Let’s hope this happens so our lake level remains adequate for the summer 2011 recreation season.

Changing subjects, the process to issue a new long-term license to APGI for the Yadkin Project drags on. Some people in the State Government and in Stanly County are still pushing to take the license away from Alcoa (APGI) and transfer it to the State of North Carolina so that any profits from the project go to the State. The Uwharrie Regional Resources Commission has met once (in January), and that was only an organizational meeting. The next meeting was to be held on February 24, but was postponed to some later date. I can’t really see how that commission can influence the State takeover of the Yadkin Project, but several of the commission proponents (and appointees to the commission) have great hope for it.

Stanly County and the Yadkin Riverkeeper have done an excellent job of delaying the issuance of a new license by the FERC to APGI. It started with a lawsuit challenging the validity of the 401 Water Quality Certificate and then when a number of internal APGI emails were made public during that process, the North Carolina Division of Water Quality (DWQ) revoked the certificate, saying that APGI withheld information that was vital to issuing the certificate. Now APGI is appealing the revocation saying that DWQ was party to all of the discussion that was contained in the emails. The FERC has explicitly said that they will not act on granting the new license until a valid 401 Water Quality Certificate is issued.

On another note, Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco and Special Deputy Attorney General Faison Hicks were gracious enough to meet with several of the signatories of the Alcoa Relicensing Settlement Agreement. (Badin Lake Association is a signatory to the Alcoa RSA.) This was a positive meeting in that these two influential gentlemen in state government heard directly from “the other side,” that is, those of us who think it is a bad deal for the state to continue to try to take over the Yadkin Project. Some misunderstandings were cleared up (e.g. what is the maximum revenue that can be expected from the project, and what is the legal basis for a government agency to take over the project). The meeting ended with Secretary Crisco and Rick Bowen (president of Alcoa Energy) agreeing to meet and go over the detailed financials of APGI’s Yadkin operations (gross power generation, gross revenue, operating costs, net invested cost, planned additional investment, etc.). So, I think some level of trust was established on both sides. Secretary Crisco said he wanted to meet again in another month or so.

…………………Garry

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Back to Normal for the Time Being

We got some good news from the DMT meeting this afternoon – specific targets for the lake level in the near term. APGI has a target to bring Badin Lake up to 1.75 feet below full over the next week and to 1.5 feet below full by mid-month. There may be some fluctuations on weekends because they expect to have divers checking the dams then, and they have to completely shut off the flow while the divers are in the water.

The long term concern is that this is just a “bump in the road” with the significant rain we got over the last four days. Although we (at Badin Lake) got about 4.5 inches of rain, most of it went to our South and East. The upper Yadkin River basin to our North-West didn’t get nearly as much, and long-term prospects are still for below-normal precipitation.

……………………Garry

Monday, September 27, 2010

Badin Lake Level Down

The lake dropped to more than four feet down this past week. Sorry I didn’t get a warning out, but I did not have any information on what to expect until this afternoon. It turns out that APGI is not going to honor their statement (see my post dated August 12, 2009 below) that Badin Lake will not go below three feet down until High Rock is six feet down. No reason was given for why not.

APGI also just posted an update on their Yadkin Project Relicensing blog (http://www.yadkinproject.blogspot.com/ ).

As of Thursday, the Yadkin watershed is now officially in a drought status (D1 - Moderate Drought) with prospects of continuing dry weather. Although we are now getting some rain, it will likely not be enough to fill up the lakes and keep us from going below three feet down for the long term. So if you have a boat that needs to get off your lift or out of the water or otherwise secured before winter, you had better do it as soon as the lake comes up enough to do it.

I will be attending a Drought Management Team (DMT) meeting this coming Thursday. I will let you know if any new information comes out of the meeting.

………………..Garry

Friday, July 30, 2010

State Takeover Attempt is Still Alive

Well, I was wrong again. The effort by some to have the state take over the Yadkin Hydroelectric project is alive and well. In fact, they say that the formation of the Uwharrie Resources Commission (House Bill 972) is exactly what they wanted. I really don't see how an advisory commission formed by a bill that makes no mention of a Yadkin River Trust or taking over the river can be that useful. But they feel that it lends legitimacy to their effort and can be used as a vehicle to continue the fight.

I attended an informational meeting on July 29 at the home of Davidson County Commissioner Cathy Dunn. Turns out it was sponsored by the Yadkin River Alliance, a group formed to fight the Alcoa relicensing and support the state takeover. And the meeting was decidedly anti-Alcoa.

The agenda included remarks by Davidson County Commissioners Cathy Dunn and Max Walser, Chuck Melton (who formed the Yadkin River Alliance), State Senator Fletcher Hartsell (Cabarrus County - who introduced the several state takeover bills), State Senator Stan Bingham (Davidson County), Dean Naujoks (Yadkin Riverkeeper), and Keith Crisco (NC State Secretary of Commerce). A Q&A session followed.

About 90% of the remarks were attacks on Alcoa for polluting the river and the land around the now-defunct Badin Works aluminum smelting plant. A few addressed the economic value of the water that Alcoa uses for free to generate hefty profits.

In the Q&A session I asked why the state didn't just tax the water that was used to generate the power since it appeared that the real issue was economic. The answer (from Fletcher Hartsell) was that they had made some attempt to do that but ran into some issues and would revisit that option if the takeover failed.

In response to another question later on, Secretary Keith Crisco stated that the pollution question was a side issue and that the real issue was the economic value of the project.

Another interesting (and disturbing) answer by Secretary Crisco was that the pollution would be cleaned up whether the state took over the project or not. But if the state took it over they would use some of the revenue from the project to speed up the cleanup process. This is disturbing because it appears that the state will be assuming the liability for cleaning up the Alcoa pollution -- not a good thing.

So, there you have it. It's not over, but I believe the state takeover is a very, very long shot. Plan B is to tax the water that Alcoa uses. In my opinion (I have been wrong before), the FERC will issue the new license to Alcoa -- possibly 30 years instead of 50 -- after the 401 water quality certificate issue is resolved. Trial date for that issue is set for September.

................................Garry