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Alcoa continues fight over hydro license

Alcoa has appealed North Carolina’s refusal to grant a water-quality permit the aluminum giant needs to renew its hydroelectric license on the Yadkin River.

The state sued Alcoa in August, claiming North Carolina owns the riverbed under Alcoa’s 38-mile hydro project. At the same time, the state’s environmental agency denied the water permit, citing the lawsuit.

In its appeal, Alcoa noted that a state-appointed hearing officer had recommended in late July that the permit be issued.

The officer also wrote that ownership of the riverbed is “outside the scope” of the permit, which evaluates impacts to water quality. That contradicted the state’s assertion, four days later, that it couldn’t consider Alcoa’s application valid “until the issues and conflicting claims of ownership are resolved.”

The appeal filed Wednesday asks for a hearing before the state’s Office of Administrative Hearings.

Alcoa also responded to the state’s lawsuit, filed in federal court in Raleigh, by asserting that it owns the riverbed under the Yadkin hydro project.

Gov. Pat McCrory, as his predecessor Bev Perdue did, says the hydroelectric might of the Yadkin should be used to produce jobs for North Carolina.

Alcoa, which harnessed the Yadkin about a century ago, closed its Badin aluminum smelter in 2007 and now sells the electricity it generates on the wholesale market.

Henderson: 704-358-5051; Twitter: @bhender
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