Economic consultant examines impact of state control of Yadkin River

Article by Brittany Edney, News 14 Carolina

The Yadkin River is a valuable resource in North Carolina and some would like to see the state take control. Alcoa had a 50-year license to operate four dams and facilities on the river but that expired in 2008. As they work toward another long term agreement, others hope to change that course.

Central Park NC wants to know what would happen if North Carolina obtained licensing to operate dams and facilities on the Yadkin River.

"We really wanted to have some data to say really what is the best economic use of this," said Nancy Gottovi of Central Park NC. "This state desperately needs jobs. We need more wealth building opportunities and we think this river might be able to supply that."

The group commissioned Michael Shuman, an economic consultant, to analyze the possibilities. He says 58 percent of the revenue from the Yadkin Project is spent outside the state each year but that money could go back into the local economy if North Carolina managed the project.

"That would create over the long-term 350-550 permanent jobs. They would pay each year between $15 to $30 million and they would increase the state economy by about $30 million," said Shuman.

Right now, Alcoa is trying to get another long term license to operate those dams and executives disagree with Shuman's report.

"Alcoa has owned and operated the Yadkin project for nearly 100 years. We built these dams and have managed them well. We have been good stewards of this property, preserving the natural beauty of this land and managing the property in a responsible way," said Ray Barham of Alcoa.

Stil, Shuman says if the state controlled the Yadkin project, it could be a source of relief in times of extreme drought.

"It's like an insurance policy," said Shuman. "With that insurance policy, they have the ability to shift water that is currently being used for electricity to water for drinking or water for industrial purposes."

Alcoa executives say they're moving forward with license filing and expect to take the next step in September.