Alcoa Power Generating, Inc. owns and operates the Tapoco project, consisting of four hydroelectric dams on the Tennessee/North Carolina border. Originally licensed in 1955, Alcoa set out to obtain a new license before the original license's 50-year expiration occurred in 2005. Alcoa convened an extensive stakeholders process that ultimately produced a consensus amongst most parties regarding the Tapoco project's relicensing procedure, including land protection, mitigation, hydropower generation, endangered species enhancement, recreational issues, and fish passage.
Despite the years of successful consensus-building, however, Alcoa could still not secure a new license to operate the Tapoco hydroelectric project because of one problem: part of Alcoa's Chilhowie reservoir was illegally flooding 100 acres of land within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission therefore had no jurisdiction under federal law to renew Alcoa's license, save thousands of jobs, and proceed with the protection of almost 10,000 acres of wilderness lands as agreed upon by Alcoa and its stakeholders.
Examples of Key PartnersAlcoa Power Generating, Inc., The Nature Conservancy, National Parks Conservation Association, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, American Rivers, Blount County TN, City of Alcoa TN, City of Maryville TN, Cross Creek Property Owners Association, Friends of Lake Santeetlah, Graham County NC, NC Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, NC Wildlife Resources Commission, Tennessee Clean Water Network, TN Department of Environment and Conservation, TN Wildlife Resources Agency, Town of Lake Santeetlah NC, Town of Robbinsville NC, U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Western North Carolina Alliance.
Results and Accomplishments
The "Tapoco Project Licensing Act of 2004," championed by Senator Lamar Alexander and Congressman John Duncan from Tennessee, resolved the problem faced by Alcoa and its many partners. Alcoa and the National Park Service agreed via the Act to swap lands to correct the flooding mistake on the Chilhowie reservoir. The Act also authorized other land protection elements, including adjustments to the Cherokee National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park boundaries; those federal land units may now legally accept additional acreage that Alcoa will transfer to The Nature Conservancy, the agreed-upon, not-for-profit, intermediary land holder.
Conservation and economic accomplishments include: 1) 2,000 jobs saved; 2) $400 million local economy protected through the relicensing of the Tapoco hydroelectric project; 3) conservation easements granted from Alcoa to The Nature Conservancy on almost 10,000 acres of Alcoa-owned mountain land connecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee National Forest; 4) almost 6,000 acres of wilderness lands eventually and permanently transferred from Alcoa to The Nature Conservancy to the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and TN Wildlife Resources Agency; 5) establishment of a $100,000 annual conservation fund to monitor, study, and enhance the area's natural resources; 6) constructing new and improving existing recreational faciliities along the reservoirs, and; 7) augmenting river flows for recreation and wildlife.