Rutherford County, NC, Western North Carolina, News,arrests, RC Catalyst, Judicial District 29A MountainTrue Urges FERC to Protect Mountain Rivers – Foothills Catalyst

MountainTrue Urges FERC to Protect Mountain Rivers

On October 4, 2021, the Oconaluftee River below Ela Dam — once a high quality mountain river — was completely filled with sediment during a reservoir drawdown for a repair by the dam’s owner, Northbrook Carolina Hydro II, LLC. 

MountainTrue is urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to protect rivers in the Little Tennessee and Hiwassee River basins by monitoring and enforcing Northbrook’s license provisions for its three Nantahala hydroelectric projects: Bryson on the Oconaluftee (where the massive sediment release occurred), Franklin on the Little Tennessee River and Mission on the Hiwassee River.

MountainTrue has been tracking the successful efforts of state agencies and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to hold Northbrook accountable for this disaster. However, MountainTrue’s review of public documents revealed that Northbrook “has conducted no active sediment management activities since obtaining the Bryson Project” in 2019. Furthermore, the company hasn’t developed the long-term sediment management plans required by FERC’s project license at any of its three Nantahala hydroelectric projects.

Our mountain rivers contain a dazzling array of wildlife species, some of which are threatened or endangered. High quality water means high survivability for aquatic wildlife, especially those species most sensitive to pollution. Increased sediment pollution in our local waterways makes it difficult for native wildlife to feed, mate, move and even breathe. This was the unfortunate fate suffered by many aquatic species when tons of sediment were unloaded into the Oconaluftee River last October.

Mountain rivers often provide our communities with drinking water. They’re also important recreational resources in our region, hosting a wide variety of recreation opportunities, including fishing, snorkeling, canoeing and kayaking.

Hydroelectric dams owned by private companies like Northbrook are licensed every 30-40 years by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Licenses have many pages of provisions designed to minimize impacts to human safety and the environment from the dams and their operations. But FERC’s responsibility doesn’t stop when the license is finalized — FERC must ensure that the license requirements are met to protect our river resources!

MountainTrue will deliver the petition to FERC on January 28, 2022. Learn more and take action here.