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by Jordan Green

Items from across the Triad and beyond

STATE SUES ALCOA AND DENIES WATER CERTIFICATE FOR YADKIN RIVER HYDROELECTRIC PROJECT

The state of North Carolina landed a one-two punch on Alcoa Power Generating on Aug. 2, beginning with a lawsuit filed by the NC Department of Administration seeking a declaratory judgment to the effect that the navigable parts of the Yadkin River are the property of the state of North Carolina. Alcoa Generating operates four hydroelectric dams that until recently had been used to power a now defunct smelting plant.

“The Yadkin River is a North Carolina river,” Gov. Pat McCrory said in a prepared statement. “We should be able to use it for North Carolina water needs and to create North Carolina jobs. The benefits of the Yadkin River belong to North Carolina’s people.”

The Yadkin River marks the western boundary of Forsyth County and also flows by Davie, Davidson, Rowan, Stanly and Montgomery counties on its way to the Atlantic Ocean. According to the NC Department of Administration, the company began moving jobs overseas in search of lower labor costs in 2004, and permanently closed an aluminum plant in Stanly County in 2007. The electricity produced by the dams is sold on the wholesale market.

Hours after the lawsuit was filed, the NC Division of Water Resources moved to deny a water quality certification submitted by Alcoa Power Generating for the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project.

“The division cannot consider the application to be a valid application until the issues of ownership of the submerged bed of the Yadkin River and the project’s dams are resolved by the parties by a final order of the court in the pending lawsuit,” Water Resources Director Tom Reeder wrote in a letter to Alcoa Power Generating.

Yadkin Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks in Winston-Salem applauded the decisions.

“This remarkable turn of events is a critical turning point as we enter the fifth year of our campaign to prevent Alcoa from receiving a 50-year license,” Naujoks said.

LEGENDARY CIVIL RIGHTS LAWYER JULIUS CHAMBERS DIES

North Carolina lost a trailblazing civil rights lawyer with the death of Julius Chambers last week. Chambers, who died on Aug. 2, opened the first integrated law firm in North Carolina, in Charlotte in the mid-1960s, and led the team of lawyers that successfully litigated the Swann v. Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education case before the US Supreme Court, leading to the desegregation of the state’s largest public school system. Later in his career, Chambers served as chancellor of NC Central University in Durham.

US Rep. Mel Watt, the Democrat who represents the 12 th Congressional District and partner in Chambers’ law firm, called his colleague a “giant.”

“The history of our state will record that Julius Chambers did more to advance us toward the constitutional aspiration of ‘justice and equality for all’ than anyone else in North Carolina,” Watt said. “I and countless others who fight daily to make that aspiration a reality were inspired by his example.”

Funeral services for Chambers are scheduled for Thursday at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte. In lieu of flowers, Chambers’ family asked that contributions be made to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in New York, NC Central University and Winston- Salem State University.

KAPLAN FAMILY DONATES $5 MILLION TOWARDS GREENSBORO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER

The proposed Greensboro Performing Arts Center has an additional $5 million in the bank with a recent gift from the family of Leonard and Tobee Kaplan through their family foundation, the Toleo Foundation.

“We were so excited by the vision of a state-of-the-art downtown performing arts center presented by the community task force,” Tobee Kaplan said. “This is critical for a vibrant, forward-looking Greensboro. Our family has been proud to support many important projects in Greensboro, and we are thrilled to be part of another project that will make Greensboro a better place to live.”

The Kaplans’ son, Randall, is a prominent downtown property owner.

Private foundations and corporations have donated a total of $12.5 million towards the performing arts center to date, including the Kaplans’ contribution.

In May, the Greensboro City Council approved $20 million in public funds for the project, to be raised through parking fees, ticket fees and a portion of hotel/ motel taxes. The city council has challenged private donors to match the $20 million commitment.

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