Aluminum producer Alcoa said Monday that it’s selling a series of Yadkin River dams that have been the subject of a controversial federal relicensing effort.
Cube Hydro Carolinas LLC, an affiliate of Cube Hydro Partners LLC, is buying the dams east of Charlotte, according to news releases Monday. Bethesda, Md.-based Cube Hydro currently owns and operates 14 plants in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
The deal is expected to close in the second half of this year and is part of $400 million in asset sales announced Monday by Alcoa. Cube Hydro is led by Dr. Kristina Johnson, former U.S. Undersecretary of Energy and the former dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University.
“We are excited to expand our presence into North Carolina to operate and upgrade the plants on the Yadkin River,” Johnson said in a statement. “We are committed to being good stewards of these well-run hydropower plants that have a long history of generating reliable, carbon-free electricity.”
Alcoa's ownership of the Yadkin River hydro stations has been controversial for nearly a decade.
Officials in Stanly County, and later the administration of Gov. Bev Perdue, protested renewal of a federal hydro license that expired in 2008. Once Alcoa closed an aluminum smelting plant in the county, the officials argued that the company no longer deserved the right to make money from the Yadkin dams.
In October, state regulators issued a water quality certification to Alcoa that cleared the way for renewal of its Yadkin hydro license.
The aluminum giant had sought the certification for years as it struggled with state and local governments over continued control of four Yadkin reservoirs east of Charlotte: High Rock, Tuckertown, Narrows and Falls.
A state judge ruled last September that the Department of Environmental Quality had illegally denied the water certification and ordered DEQ to act on Alcoa’s application within 30 days.
Days later, Alcoa also won a federal lawsuit in which the state claimed to own the bottom of the Yadkin.
Alcoa’s Ray Barham, the Yadkin relicensing manager, said in October that the company will install water-quality technology and provide other environmental and recreational benefits under the terms of its expected federal license.
“Alcoa has a long history in North Carolina and we are grateful for the strong relationships we’ve formed over the years,” Barham said in a statement Monday. “We will continue to promote economic development opportunities at the Badin Business Park and are confident that Cube Hydro will build on our century-long legacy of generating clean, renewable energy and protecting the natural resources of the region.”