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Western

Lake is dammed if they don’t 

Don’t demolish the Dillsboro Dam. That’s the message Jackson County commissioners sent Duke Energy Corp. In the wake of their vote to condemn the property for a park, it will be up to the courts to decide whether the Charlotte-based utility or the county has final say on a small impoundment that plays a big role in the life of this tiny mountain town about 50 miles west of Asheville. At issue is whether a section of the Tuckasegee River is worth more as a free-flowing stream or a lake.

The showdown has been brewing about five years, since Duke proposed removing the dam to increase flow to meet relicensing requirements for hydroelectric projects downstream. “The positive thing is that it will open up a 10-mile stretch of the river and return it to its natural status,” spokesman Andy Thompson says. “That’ll benefit paddlers, fishermen and other users.”

Hold it, says Jackson County, which filed notice in June that it intends to condemn the dam and lake, built in 1913. “Tearing down that dam fails to consider all the other things that impact the community culturally, historically and economically,” County Manager Kenneth Westmoreland says. Dillsboro, population 258, began as a rail stop in the 1800s and has virtually no economy other than tourism.

The stakes, at least in direct dollars, are small. The dam and lake cover only about 12 acres, and Duke has set the value at $78,000. When the county exercised eminent domain, its appraisal came back higher — $630,000. No matter who wins, Dillsboro is going to get a park. The county would seize the lake and land for a park with hiking trails, boating and other features. Duke would give the restored riverfront property to the town for a park.

Westmoreland insists that the lake’s value to Dillsboro is in the thousands of visitors it attracts each year and the hundreds of thousands of dollars they spend. Duke counters that the free-flowing river would attract canoeists and kayakers. Among others supporting the dam’s removal is American Whitewater, a Cullowhee-based organization of more than 100 paddling clubs nationwide. Jackson County has spent about $250,000 in legal fees so far, and Duke, weary of bad publicity from the tussle, offered privately to pay the county $225,000 to drop opposition to demolishing the dam. Commissioners declined. Despite the refusal, the company is confident. It recently began removing thousands of tons of sediment above the dam, the first step to demolition, scheduled for completion early next year.

Another Parton shot

In Roanoke Rapids, Dolly Parton’s brother Randy got nearly $3 million in public money to perform at and manage a theater, a deal that ended in his firing after the town accused him of blowing money on booze and other dispensables. Another Parton — sister Stella — is in the limelight now at Ghost Town in the Sky, which signed her as entertainment consultant. The Maggie Valley theme park (Regional Report, June) has struggled, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March, seeking $200,000 from Maggie Valley in May and then getting a last-second cash infusion from an anonymous investor after the town balked. She’ll headline three shows this season, sign other acts and direct the park’s new Appalachian Cultural Center. It won’t say what she’s paid.

 

CHEROKEE — The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians approved alcohol sales at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino by a vote of 1,847-1,301. Supporters say it will mean more revenue for the tribe, which gets half the profit from the casino. Sales are not expected to begin before late this year.

BREVARDTransylvania Regional Hospital is soliciting proposals to affiliate with a larger health-care system. The 94-bed hospital employs about 600.

MARIONMorganton Pressure Valves moved here from Morganton and plans to add 43 jobs within three years, giving it more than 65. The subsidiary of Italy-based Baglioni Group needed more space to make air-pressure tanks and other equipment.

MARIONBaldor Electric plans to add 25 employees over three years at its local plant, which will increase employment to about 125. The Fort Smith, Ark.-based company makes electric motors and generators.

SPRUCE PINEGenesis Furniture Industries laid off eight of 35 employees here and announced that it would suspend production once it filled back orders. The Pontotoc, Miss.-based upholstered-furniture maker said it hopes to bring workers back once business improves.

CHEROKEEGreat Smoky Mountains National Park will receive $64 million in federal economic-stimulus money, which it plans to spend on roads, restrooms and trail maintenance.