Posted on January 19, 2005
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today approved the re-licensing of Alcoa Inc.'s hydroelectric dams for 40 years. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Energy Subcommittee, sponsored legislation in the Senate that authorized the re-licensing. He said about FERC's action: "To those who never think government does anything right, it is hard to imagine a recent government action with more good in it than the Alcoa land swap. It saves thousands of manufacturing jobs, promotes clean air and clean energy, and conserves for public use 10,000 acres of the most important park land in the Eastern United States - all in one fell swoop." * * * * Since 1913, Alcoa, Inc. has owned and operated four dams that provide power to its plants in Blount County. The license for the hydroelectric was set to expire in February. FERC's action today is a result of land swap legislation introduced by Alexander in the Senate and Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. in the House of Representatives during the 108th Congress, which President Bush signed it into law last October. The land swap transfers 100 acres of flooded areas of land within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in exchange for 186 acres of biologically sensitive land that Alcoa, Inc. currently owns, which was originally intended to be part of the park. Alcoa, Inc. has granted a permanent easement on 6,000 acres of land located in Blount County, Tennessee and Swain County, North Carolina to the Tennessee Nature Conservancy. Alcoa, Inc. is also granting a temporary easement on 4,000 more acres to the Tennessee Nature Conservancy for outdoor recreation activities such as hiking and fishing. This will be a 40-year easement - then the land will return to Alcoa, Inc. Alcoa, Inc. employs 2,000 East Tennesseans with an economic impact of $377 million on the region. The land swap agreement was seven years in the making and included the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Eastern Band of Cherokees, state agencies representing Tennessee and North Carolina, local governments, numerous non-governmental organizations, homeowners' associations and individual citizens.