NC Wildlife shoots itself in both kneecaps

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.   

Views: 580

Tags: Jim Cogdell, alcoa, nc wildlife resources commission, ncwrc, relicensing, yadkin

Comment by flowerchild on September 25, 2013 at 3:16pm

Our friend "the State" sure is making it difficult to get that land, which is important to an awful lot of people around here.

Comment by John D. Young on September 25, 2013 at 6:24pm
The letter from the NCWRC repeats the inaccurate info that has been spread by the Alcoa is Evil Campaign. It is sad to see the NCWRC used in this way. This letter ignores the presentation by NCDENR and the NC Department of Public Health at Morrow Mt. State Park on May 13, 2013 that found that PCBs are a river basin wide issue.

It also fails to address the PCB remediation done by Alcoa in late 2012 that was approved by NCDENR and the EPA and improvements done by Alcoa to remedy dissolved oxygen issues. Additional improvements are to be made with DO in the Relicensing Settlement Agreement with new oxygen generating turbines. The WRC's letter ignores the internal recommendation of the NC Department of Water Quality dated July 29, 2013 to approve Alcoa's 401 Certification. (DWQ internal recommendation was trumped and halted by McCrory's river bed lawsuit.)

No doubt there are serious environmental concerns with all old and new industry as well as sediment and nutrient runoff from poor storm sewer systems, waste water treatment plants, farming and animal raising practices along the Yadkin. Because of these excessive nutrients the waters that enter High Rock Lake are in compliance with DO guidelines only around 50% of the time. By the time those Yadkin waters leave the Yadkin Project they are over 95% compliant.

Alcoa's production of aluminum, dating back to 1917 - long before the Clean Water Act, certainly does not have a spotless record. However, this action by the NCWRC may actually prevent the improvement of water quality by not working actively with important sections of the RSA to preserving around 6,000 shoreline and upland forested acres along the Yadkin. (It appears that most of the important land preservation efforts in the RSA now fall fully on the shoulders of The Land Trust for Central NC.)

This sharp reversal by the WRC, without public comment and even without sufficient input from their own staff is not in the interest of the land, the water, the wildlife, the hunters and the communities along the Yadkin River. A far better option for the NCWRC would have been to press Alcoa to preserve their entire 16,000 acres of land along the Yadkin River (10,000 acres are outside the purview of the RSA and the Yadkin Project) for the benefits of water quality, air quality, wildlife habitat, permanent expansion of game lands and increased ecotourism for the region.
Comment by another David on September 25, 2013 at 7:36pm

I've tried to be civil, but these IDIOTS are so obsessed with stopping Alcoa, or at least hurting Alcoa, that they don't give any consideration to the fact that they're harming the very interests they say they're protecting.  There's no other word for it:  IDIOCY!

 

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