Momentum Builds to Keep Yadkin River in Public Hands

This weekend as North Carolinians enjoy the last of summer on the state's lakes and rivers, the fight continues over ownership of the Yadkin River. One month after the state filed in a Wake County Court to establish state ownership of the river, the Yadkin Riverkeeper is stepping up in support. At issue is ownership of the riverbed, where Alcoa has hydropower dams. The company is asking the federal government to grant it a 50-year lease of the river.

The Yadkin Riverkeeper – Dean Naujoks – explains why his group filed a motion to intervene in the case. "We are the voice for the Yadkin River,” he said. β€œAnd we are the organization that I think is most important in working with the state in representing citizen interests."

For the past five years, the Yadkin Riverkeeper has questioned waste dumped in the river by Alcoa, which the state calls a "massive toxic footprint." A spokesperson from Alcoa said the company has no additional comment, but this week Alcoa did file a motion to dismiss the state's claim to the riverbed.

Naujoks said Alcoa's past track record of pollution in the Yadkin is one reason the company should not be granted the license.

"You cannot just get this river and this license for 50 years and make billions of dollars off of a public resource and leave this toxic footprint behind," he said.

There are four hydropower dams on the Yadkin River and Naujoks said Alcoa makes at least $7 million a year from the power generation. A report from Central Park NC found that if the state received the 50-year lease, the hydroelectric facilities could generate an additional $1.2 billion in state revenue and create up to 75,000 jobs.