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Alcoa draws closer to Yadkin River license

Alcoa has received a key certificate from the state of North Carolina in its quest to keep control of part of the Yadkin River northeast of Charlotte. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: The final say in Alcoa's hydropower license belongs to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. But the state could block the license by refusing to issue a certificate of water quality. Opponents of Alcoa's hydropower operation hoped that would happen. Instead, the North Carolina Division of Water Quality issued the certificate yesterday, but only on condition that Alcoa improve the amount of dissolved oxygen in the river below its dams. That's critical for the health of fish. There are numerous other conditions in the certificate, including a demand that Alcoa post a $240 million bond to guarantee water quality improvements are made. Alcoa spokesman Gene Ellis hopes federal regulators will now move quickly to issue the company another 50-year license for the river. But Governor Bev Perdue and at least seven counties are trying to get the license handed over to the state because Alcoa closed its aluminum smelter in 2002 and now sells the hydropower for a profit. Perdue says she wants to make sure the Yadkin is used for public benefit. Listen for WFAE's series "Public vs. Private: Power Struggle on the Yadkin" beginning Monday, May 11, on Morning Edition.