A Basic Description of the Tapoco Project

There is a dam relicensing going on in the heart of TVA land. It's actually a four-dam project falling under one license. The dams are Santeetlah and Cheoah in NC, and Calderwood and Chilhowee in TN. Cheoah, Calderwood, and Chilhowee are all on the Little Tennessee River while Santeetlah is on the Cheoah River. There are two bypassed (de-watered) river reaches. One mile of the Little Tennessee is bypassed between Calderwood Dam and Calderwood powerhouse. About nine miles of the Cheoah River are bypassed below Santeetlah Dam. The Cheoah has tremendous potential for whitewater and fishing. Those who have managed to paddle it with sufficient natural flow or dam release have compared it to the Ocoee River. The Tennessee portion of the project is in Blount and Monroe counties in East Tennessee. The North Carolina portion of the project is in Graham and Swain counties in Western North Carolina.

The dams are owned by Tapoco, a subsidiary of Alcoa, and provide power for their aluminum plant in Alcoa, also in Blount County. Alcoa was in the dam-building business before TVA, and after the authorization of TVA, contracts between the two allowed Alcoa to retain ownership. Because they are privately owned, the dams are licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Dams owned by federal agencies such as TVA and the Army Corps are exempt from licensing. This project is bracketed by TVA's Fontana Dam upstream and TVA's Tellico Dam downstream. The oldest dam, Cheoah, was built in 1919, and the most recent, Chilhowee, was built in 1957. The project was licensed by FERC in 1955 and the license expires in February 2005. Tapoco plans to file for a new license in February 2003.

A licensee has a variety of FERC processes to choose from in undergoing relicensing. Tapoco has chosen a "front-loaded" collaborative process called the Applicant Prepared Environmental Assessment (APEA). The idea is for the licensee to reach consensus with all interested parties before filing for the license. It's called a "no surprises" approach.

The comment period for Scoping Document 1 ended on December 4, 1999. Many studies are currently taking place. A whitewater study took place in July 2000.

More information can be found on Tapoco's Web Site.

locusMore detailed map of Project Areanew


Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I get on the mailing list to receive documents on the relicensing?

    Call Sue Fugate at Tapoco, (865) 977-3321, or e-mail her at [email protected]. You should receive meeting minutes, Scoping Document 1, the White Paper on Dam Removal, and other notices. You can also request the Initial Information Packet (IIP) andthe Water Quality Analysis Report.

  • Where should I send comments?

    Comments should be sent to:

    Mr. Norman Pierson
    Tapoco, Inc.
    300 North Hall Road
    Alcoa, TN 37701-2516

    (or [email protected])

    AND Mr. Paul Shiers
    PB Power Inc.
    75 Arlington Street
    Boston, MA 02116

    (or [email protected])

    We also strongly recommend officially filing all comments with FERC. To do this, you must send an original letter plus 8 (yes, eight) copies to:

    Office of the Secretary
    Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
    888 First Street N.E.
    Washington, D.C. 20426

    The first page needs to clearly refer to "Tapoco Project, FERC No. 2169."

  • How can I see all officially filed comments?

    Go to the FERC Homepage and click on "RIMS". On the left index bar click on "Docket #". In the docket blank enter "P-2169". To see more than just the past month, reset the dates in the upper right hand corner. Then click Send. To view documents, click on the number on the far right, not the document title.

  • What groups are following this relicensing?

    American Whitewater, Trout Unlimited, American Rivers, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Western North Carolina Alliance, Chota Canoe Club, Western Carolina Paddlers, Sierra Club (WENOCA Chapter), are just a few.

  • How can my group join this coalition to communicate and strategize?

    We currently maintain an e-mail distribution list containing about 30 people representing the above environmental and recreational interests, and more. To join us, send an e-mail to [email protected]. We will occasionally be submitting sign-on letters as a united coalition to Tapoco and FERC.

  • Who is the FERC contact person?

    Contact Ron McKitrick at [email protected] or call (770) 452-3778.

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