The terms of Duke Energy’s counter-offer to Jackson County and the town of Franklin in exchange for dropping their opposition to Dillsboro dam removal have been made public.
Duke Energy made a confidential offer to their opponents two weeks ago in hopes of staving off a move by Jackson to use eminent domain to seize the dam. Jackson County commissioners voted 4 to 1 last week to turn down the offer. The Franklin town board followed suit this week with a unanimous vote to reject Duke’s offer.
Franklin Alderman Bob Scott made the terms of the offer public. Once the town board voted on the offer, it became a public record, he said. Scott also believes the residents of Franklin have a right to know what the town board voted to accept or reject on their behalf.
“The public body exists for one reason only and that’s to conduct the public’s business,” Scott said. Furthermore, Duke is a public utility operating as a monopoly in the region and should answer to the public as well.
Here is what Duke has offered Jackson County in exchange for dropping their opposition to dam removal:
• Pay $150,000 to help create a river park along the Tuckasegee River in Dillsboro.
• Provide 200 hours by a Duke staffer to write grants to assist with the river park.
• Pay $75,000 to help Jackson County with the upkeep and management of a boat launch Duke already has plans to build along the Tuck, but will be turning over to the county for maintenance.
• Agree not to seek damages or attorney fees against Jackson County for holding up permits Duke needed to dredge sediment behind the dam. Duke had to go to court to get the permits.
• Speeding up payment of $350,000 for recreational amenities on the Tuckasegee and Lake Glenville that had been already promised. Duke had previously pledged to pay the mitigation sum within 15 years, but would speed it up to five. Duke similarly offered to speed up the already-promised sum of $40,000 for sediment control initiatives.
Here is what Duke had offered Franklin:
• Pay $10,000 for additional amenities at a recreation area on Lake Emory. Duke plans already call for a boat put-in and picnic tables.
In exchange, Duke wanted Jackson and the town of Franklin to drop all legal and public opposition, including challenging Duke in the news media. The offer also was contingent on the majority of terms remaining confidential.
Franklin leaders claim Duke has shortchanged their residents in the way of mitigation for the utility’s dam and powerhouse the Little Tennessee River at Lake Emory. Removing the Dillsboro dam was supposed to count as mitigation credits for Duke’s hydro operation at Lake Emory, but Franklin leaders fail to see the benefit of dam removal in Dillsboro to their residents in Franklin and want to see more direct benefits, primarily around Lake Emory.