On November 28, 2012 the NC Division of Water Quality (DWQ) issued a public notice that Alcoa had reapplied for its 401 certification from the state, and set a comment deadline of January 18, 2013. Less than two weeks later, DWQ wrote to Alcoa stating that the application was incomplete and that until the company gave the missing information to the agency, the application would be placed on hold. Because the public cannot comment on an incomplete application, the comment period should have been extended. A few days before the January 18th deadline, attorneys for the state confirmed that the company had not yet provided the missing information, and consequently, the comment deadline would be extended until the application was complete.
At 2:36pm on Friday January 18th, the state changed its position and notified Ryke Longest with the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic that comments would be due at the close of business Friday. This reversal of position serves to exclude the public from effectively participating in the comment process. In addition, because the company’s application is still incomplete, the public lacks access to information that could influence the content of their comments. At 4:00pm on Friday afternoon, Yadkin Riverkeeper was alerted that the public comment period would be closing but thanks to citizens who took the time to call and send emails the public comment period has been extended.
State rules require that the Division of Water Quality (DWQ) provide notice of each pending application for an individual certification. While no public comment period is required as part of that notice, DWQ chose to solicit input from the public on the initial application materials received on September 28, 2012 and October 17, 2012 in order to give the public as much time as possible to review the large amount of information contained therein. Additional information was subsequently requested by DWQ on December 7, 2012 and received on January 22, 2013 (After the January 18th deadline). Additional information provided by the applicant will be maintained as part of the public record and the Division will continue to accept comments on this material throughout the application review process.
DWQ also sent the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project, FERC No. 2197, prepared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), to the NC State Environmental Review Clearinghouse. This document was posted in the Bulletin (http://www.doa.nc.gov/clearing/ebulletin.aspx) and is available for comment through the Clearinghouse through February 25, 2013.
DWQ is currently reviewing the application, additional information, and the comments received. The DWQ director will determine whether to hold a public hearing. If a public hearing is held, a third comment period will start on the day of the hearing and continue for 30 days after the hearing.
To facilitate easy access for the public, DWQ has made the application materials, including any additional information received, available online. To view the application materials, please go to: http://its.enr.state.nc.us/laserfiche8/Login.aspx?db=NCDWQ. The user Name is “public” and the password is “password”.
DWQ also welcomes input from the public outside of the specific comment periods identified above, and any comments received during the review of the application will be considered for a 401 water quality certification for Yadkin Hydroelectric Project FERC No. 2197; Alcoa Power Generating, Inc. (APGI); DWQ # 2012-0900.