Decades ago, during the Great Depression, when the nation was straining to spread electric power to every part of the country, New York set up a public trust — the New York Power Authority — to build dams and produce hydro-electricity.
In North Carolina, we followed a different model. We allowed private industries to use our rivers — like the Yadkin — if, in exchange, they would build dams to generate hydro-electricity for their mills and factories.
So, in 1915, aluminum magnate Andrew Mellon and his Alcoa Corp. was granted the use of the Yadkin River and built dams, using the cheap electricity to smelt aluminum in Badin. Years later, in 1958, when Alcoa needed a new federal license to continue to dam the river, North Carolina agreed due to the jobs provided by Alcoa's smelter. As a result, Alcoa has controlled 38 miles of the Yadkin River and up to 940,000,000 kilowatt hours of hydro-electricity for nearly a century.
Now, Alcoa's license to use the river is up. Naturally, Alcoa wants another 50-year license from Washington. But that model no longer works for North Carolina. In fact, it puts Alcoa's interest in direct conflict with ours.
Read full OpEd by Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, The Dispatch