TAPOCO HYDROELECTRIC 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cheoah River Page | Cheoah Dam | Calderwood Dam | Chilhowee Dam
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