The City of Salisbury today asked for help from President Trump, North Carolina’s U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, Congressmen Ted Budd and Richard Hudson, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (called FERC), Governor Roy Cooper, and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (or DEQ). The City Council by resolution requested that the State of North Carolina and the United States government immediately require the implementation of flood protection measures the State and Federal Government mandated in 2015 and 2016 to prevent the disruption and destruction of infrastructure that is essential for the operation of Salisbury’s water supply system.
In early February 2020, rising Yadkin River levels threatened to destroy Salisbury’s water supply pumping equipment at the Yadkin River. The City was forced to turn off power to its water supply pumps from February 7 – 9, 2020 due to the imminent danger of water reaching electrical equipment. Salisbury engineers estimate the flood was only about a “10-year” event – meaning it is inevitable that there will be more severe floods and that pumping equipment will be destroyed.
The flood threat would be eliminated if federally-required and State-required flood protection measures were in place. They are not. Although the flood protection measures have been required by both DEQ and FERC since 2016, the necessary infrastructure construction project has not begun, and so far there is no plan in place for the project. The project is supposed to be completed by Cube Yadkin Generation LLC, the owner of High Rock Dam.
The severity of the flooding in February was caused by a massive “sediment delta” that restricts river flow. The sediment delta, caused by High Rock Dam, is several miles long and continues to grow. The prior dam owner, Alcoa Power Generating Inc., argued High Rock Dam does not cause the flood and sedimentation problems. However, Salisbury commissioned expert studies and took the unusual step of asking FERC to obtain independent scientific peer review of the City-commissioned studies. FERC did so and concluded the studies were reliable. In 2007, FERC published a Final Environmental Impact Statement that explained in detail how High Rock Dam causes the sediment delta, flooding, and sedimentation problems.
In fall 2018, Cube Yadkin proposed to implement some but not all of the required flood protection measures. Salisbury asked FERC to require implementation of a plan that is better-engineered and that meets all requirements. FERC has not published a decision.
Salisbury’s water supply system provides potable water and fire-fighting flows for 52,000 North Carolinians in Salisbury, China Grove, Cleveland, East Spencer, Granite Quarry, Kannapolis, Landis, Rockwell, Spencer, and in unincorporated areas of Rowan County.