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A series of stories about the Yadkin River and Alcoa's fight to keep control.

Alcoa Gets Fresh Start To Win Approval Of State Regulators

An Alcoa dam on Badin Lake.
Julie Rose
A Yadkin River dam run by Alcoa. align=left

Alcoa has gotten its wish from a judge - the chance to start over in trying to get the approval of state regulators for its dams on the Yadkin River.

Alcoa is in this game for the rights to operate dams on the Yadkin River another 50 years. Right now the company's just a few yards shy of that goal. The final thing it needs is approval from state water quality regulators.

But that has been tied up in a series of legal appeals, which is a lot like a ref signaling a time out in football. The clock stops.  And where Alcoa's water quality certificate is concerned there have been a lot of time outs called.

First, Alcoa appealed the water quality certificate it received back in 2009 because it didn't like the conditions state regulators were requiring.

Stanly County and the Yadkin Riverkeeper appealed too, because they want the state to be even more strict with Alcoa.  

As those appeals worked their way through court, internal emails surfaced that led the state to believe it had been intentionally misled by Alcoa. Regulators revoked their approval.

Alcoa appealed that revocation. 

So now a judge has given Alcoa permission to drop its appeal and start fresh by applying for a new water quality certificate. It's a way to restart the clock, says Alcoa's Kevin Anton.

"The state has 365 days to take a decision on the water quality permit and we believe this is the quickest way to resolution," says Anton.

Of course, that'll only be true if nobody appeals the new water quality certificate. Stanly County commissioners continue to insist Alcoa must do more to improve water quality and return economic benefits to the public with any new hydropower license.

Will Stanly County stop the clock again with another appeal? 

"We're looking and waiting to see what Alcoa may be proposing in a new (water quality certificate) and we'll go from there," says Stanly County Commissioner Lindsey Dunevant.

Stanly County won't have to wait long. Alcoa has already filed its new application with the Division of Water Quality.