The Yadkin and Pee Dee River basin in central North Carolina was originally licensed in 1958 for 50 years to Alcoa Aluminum to power their local aluminum smelting plant. A series of dams were built which created High Rock Lake to the north and Baden Lake to the south; the lakes are separated by the Tuckertown Reservoir. Environmental interests in the local community, state and neighboring South Carolina have long been at odds with Alcoa.
A major drought from 1999 to 2002 exposed Alcoa’s inadequate environmental procedures. Lake draw-down procedures virtually drained the lake and caused significant environmental harm to the area. The drought eventually ended and High Rock Lake recovered. However, there have also been numerous claims of pollution. Recent attempts to have state control failed and re-licensing to Alcoa has been quite contentious. Last September Alcoa’s license was renewed until 2055 with provisions to protect High Rock Lake water levels. Groups like the Yadkin Riverkeeper remain concerned over Alcoa’s ability to protect local environmental interests.
The Yadkin river basin runs adjacent to the Uwharrie National Forest, which is named for the Uwharrie Mountains – an ancient mountain range dating back 500 million years ago. Geologists believe the mountain peaks once reached 20,000 ft! The rocks featured in this post are all that remains of this once majestic mountain range.
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