On 8/29 the NC Wildlife Resources Commission Commissioners met for the first time with a majority of newly-appointed members and a new Chairman, Jim Cogdell of Stanly County, from the state takeover camp. Here’s what we know about what happened.
The previous day a number of the Commissioners’ committees met, including the “Committee of the Whole,” which spent almost its entire meeting in closed session with Faison Hicks among others, the special deputy attorney general handling the lawsuit against Alcoa. The “Committee of the Whole” emerged from closed session long enough to pass a motion authorizing the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (the agency) to “rescind” its signature on the 2007 Yadkin Project Relicensing Settlement Agreement (RSA). This was never on any agenda, there was no public notice, and there was no public comment. (I’m sure this isn’t how the state’s open meetings statute says things should be done.) The Yadkin Riverkeeper gloated about it that evening. A letter to that effect went out last week.
This action will hardly make a dent in Alcoa's case. It does hurt the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC), land conservation, wildlife and watershed protection, and North Carolina’s boaters, hunters and fishermen.
The NCWRC staff spent hundreds of hours in the Alcoa relicensing and settlement negotiation process. They successfully negotiated many of the terms included in the RSA, many of the proposed license articles, and subsidies to support their ongoing work.
The NCWRC was instrumental in negotiating for the land conservation provision of the RSA, which would make 4,730 acres of Alcoa’s non-project land available for purchase for gamelands, recreation, and conservation. NCWRC wanted most of the land themselves, although some was also available to the LandTrust. Now, the entire burden is on the LandTrust, without federal funding that is available only to state agencies, and without the defunded state clean water fund grants. Alcoa currently leases 8,284 acres of project and non-project land to the NCWRC for use as public game land.
The NCWRC had also negotiated for a number of subsidies from Alcoa to support their work, totaling as much as $3,275,000 over the course of a 50-year license.
The NCWRC withdrew from all the provisions of the RSA. Just walked away from all they had negotiated for. Just took their football and went home, without saying a word to anyone.
Alcoa says they won’t make any decisions without talking to all the RSA signatories. The RSA says we should invoke a dispute resolution process. The RSA says the NCWRC should have invoked a dispute resolution process, instead of self-destructively abrogating their obligations.