Senator Alexander Introduces Alcoa Land Swap Legislation - Bill Saves East Tennessee Jobs And Provides Thousands Of Acres For Outdoor Recreation

Posted on April 19, 2004

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander today offered legislation asking Congress to approve a land swap that could add 6,000 acres of land to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and makes another 4,000 acres immediately available for outdoor recreation. When the land swap is completed, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is expected to re-license the Aluminum Company of America's (ALCOA) hydroelectric dams for 40 years. Since 1913, ALCOA has owned and operated four dams that provide power to its plants in Blount County. The license for the hydroelectric facility expires in February 2005. "This agreement will save thousands of good-paying jobs at the Aluminum Company of America plants in Blount County - and at the same time provide recreational opportunities on thousands of acres of ALCOA mountain land for canoeists, hikers and fishermen," Alexander said while introducing his bill on the Senate floor. "And, of importance to all of us who enjoy the outdoors in East Tennessee and North Carolina, this agreement should help to create fuller lake reservoirs during the summer recreation season." The land swap will transfer 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 currently owns, which was originally intended to be part of the park. After the swap occurs, ALCOA will grant a permanent easement on 6,000 acres of land located in Blount County, Tennessee and Swain County, North Carolina to the Tennessee Nature Conservancy. The conservancy will have the option to buy the land and could then sell it to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Alexander's legislation gives Congress the ability to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to buy the 6,000 acres and add it to the park. The land extends all the way to the Cheoah Reservoir in North Carolina and is between the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and National Cherokee Forest. ALCOA will also grant 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. "I grew up hearing about Charles Martin Hall and the discovery of aluminum," Alexander said. "My father went to work for ALCOA in 1941, the year after I was born. The job the plant manager, Granville Swany, offered him as a safety engineer was twice what he was being paid as principal of West Side Elementary School. And one of those ALCOA Foundation scholarships went to me in 1958, making it possible for me to attend Vanderbilt University, something I could never have afforded to do otherwise." Today, ALCOA employs 2,000 East Tennesseans with an economic impact of $377 million on the region. This land swap agreement has been seven years in the making and has 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. The bill will be taken up in the National Parks Senate Subcommittee on Tuesday, April 27.