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Tribe opposes Substation at Kituwah Site
February 8, 2010
(updated Tuesday, Feb. 9 with a quote from Chief George Wickliffe of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians)
By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Mound at the Kituwah Site (Photo by Scott McKie B.P./One Feather staff)
Kituwah, the Mother Town of the Cherokee, is in danger according to many tribal members who are opposing the construction of a Duke Energy Substation near the site. Tribal Council passed a resolution during their regular session on Thursday, Feb. 4 denouncing the construction plans.
“Kituwah is the most important sacred site to the Cherokee people, and it is amazing that it remains intact into the 21st Century,” said Principal Chief Michell Hicks who submitted the resolution. “We purchased the site for the sole purpose of ensuring protection for future generations of Cherokees and it is our responsibility, as a Nation, to continue that work. We have a positive relationship with Duke Energy and with Swain County and I feel confident we can reach an amicable solution once we have an opportunity to formally consult with Duke Energy on this important matter.”
Paige Layne, Duke spokesperson, commented on Monday, Feb. 8, “We have a long standing and good working relationship with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and I think it’s built on mutual respect. Ultimately, we want to work with the Tribe to expand our energy offerings to them in a way that is culturally sensitive.”
The resolution passed by Tribal Council on Thursday states, “It is this Tribe’s solemn responsibility and moral duty to care for and protect all of Kituwah from further desecration and degradation by human agency in order to preserve the integrity of the most important site for the origination and continuation of Cherokee culture, heritage, history and identity.”
It directs both the EBCI Attorney General’s Office and the EBCI Tribal Historic Preservation Office “to pursue remedies to this situation, on behalf of the Tribe, in front of the State Public Utilities Commission and by any informal means where an acceptable resolution can be reached.”
Russell Townsend, EBCI Tribal Historical Preservation Office, told Tribal Council, “They (Duke Energy) claim to be a good neighbor to the Tribe, and this is a clear indication of where they let us down and appear to have violated some state laws. This is our most important site. We’re only ever going to have one Kituwah.”
Big Cove Elder Walker Calhoun commented, “I’m for preserving that place where they’re trying to build that tower. I’m 100% for preserving it.”
Vice Chief Larry Blythe said, “We need to send a strong message to Duke Energy that we’re here and we deserve respect.” He said there should have been public consultation meetings on this issue.
Hannah Smith, EBCI legal counsel, addressed Tribal Council on Thursday as simply a concerned tribal member. “Cherokee people, all over the world, originated here. To Cherokee people, it’s not just about beauty and viewshed; those mountains have meaning.”
She also said it appears Duke has not followed state law. “If they had followed the law, we wouldn’t be here in this state of emergency so to speak.”
Her sister, Natalie Smith, also spoke on Thursday and related, “You all have ties to Kituwah. Kituwah is not just dirt that resides in our property line. Kituwah is in a relationship with its surroundings.”
She further stated, “The mountains they have been dozing, under our nose, is part of Kituwah…this is a shame. They’re shaming our soul by doing this, and we can’t allow them.”
Tom Belt, a member of the Cherokee Nation and fluent Cherokee speaker, has lived in Cherokee for 19 years. “The Kituwah site is one of the most profound and sacred things that is in the possession of our people at this time. It is one of the most sacred things that we have. We have nothing else that we can say, to our knowledge, that more identifies us, as a people whole, than this particular site.”
Cherokee County – Snowbird Rep. Diamond Brown, Jr. said everyone should think of the sacred Black Hills in South Dakota being defaced with the construction of Mount Rushmore. “I’ve been on the front lines, and I’m not afraid to stand up for our people. Think about this and use this as an example.”
In an email to Fred Alexander, a Duke Energy official, on Monday, Feb. 8, Cara Cowan Watts, deputy speaker of the Cherokee Nation (OK) Tribal Council wrote, “Both the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians should be consulted before any work is done near the Mother Town of Kituwah. Please consider putting your plans on pause to see what workable solutions can be reached to prevent negative impact on such a culturally-significant site as Kituwah.”
Chief George Wickliffe, of the Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (OK), said Kituwah is “like the Garden of Eden to the Christian.” On behalf of his Tribe he stated, “The United Keetoowah band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma is strongly and adamantly against the construction of any such power facility near Kituwah, or in it’s view shed for not only historic, but cultural and religious reasons. We demand that Duke Energy comply with all Federal laws and reuqirements which pertain to this project, as well as any other project in the future on land which was originally owned by and inhabited by the Cherokee people.
He continued, “We ask for Duke Energy to cease any work proceeding at the moment, and to comply with each requirement…”
http://www.nc-cherokee.com/onefeather/2 … uwah-site/
Cherokee tribes object to substation near Kituwah site
A marker designating the historic Kituwah site near Cherokee, N.C. (File photo)
By Will Chavez
Thurs, Feb 11, 2010
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – All three federally recognized Cherokee tribes have objected to a power company’s plans to build an electricity substation close to the sacred site of Kituwah near Cherokee, N.C.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians owns the 309-acre site, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Duke Energy plans to build a substation, or tie station, to move electricity from one point to another by increasing or decreasing voltage south of the site.
The EBCI Tribal Council approved a resolution on Feb. 4 opposing those plans. The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council’s Rules Committee passed a similar resolution on Feb. 9 supporting the “preservation and protection of the ancient Kituwah mound.”
The CN resolution states: “Kituwah is the mother town of the Cherokee people and the most sacred site for all Cherokees no matter where they live, and the Cherokee Nation’s solemn responsibility and moral duty is to care for and protect the Kituwah site from further desecration and degradation by human agency in order to preserve the integrity of the most important site for the origination and continuation of Cherokee culture, heritage, history and identity.”
Principal Chief Chad Smith said Kituwah’s historic value is significant.
“We support the ongoing efforts by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and others to preserve this unique site, and encourage all parties involved, including Duke Energy, to work together closely to ensure that every appropriate measure is taken and all relevant regulations followed for the protection of the mound and surrounding property,” he said.
The Kituwah mound, in the center of the photo, once stood higher and was the foundation of a building where a ceremonial leader tended to the sacred fire of the Cherokee. (File photo)
United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Chief George Wickliffe said the original town of Kituwah is not only sacred to the UKB but a traditional cultural property, too. The Keetoowah Cherokee religion and the Cherokee people’s origin are centered at Kituwah, he said.
“Kituwah is well documented as our Mother Town and due to its history, not only through such documentation, but orally and as a part of our religious tradition, is like the Garden of Eden to the Christian,” he said.
Wickliffe said it is unfortunate Duke Energy did not notify the Keetoowah people of the plans taking place. Duke Energy representatives promised to forward maps and photos the UKB requested, but the tribe never received them, he said.
“We demand that Duke Energy comply with all federal laws and requirements which pertain to this project, as well as any other project in the future on land which was originally owned by and inhabited by the Cherokee people,” Wickliffe said. “We ask for Duke Energy to cease any work proceeding at the moment, comply with each requirement and send us copies of such reports, filings or any statements made by federal agencies stating that such compliance is not required.”
The EBCI resolution states the impact of the station’s construction was never open to scrutiny by any of the interested parties, including the tribe. The EBCI attorney general has been asked to seek remedies to the situation, assess the tribe’s rights and work with county officials to halt construction until the state’s Public Utilities Commission can hear concerns.
“Kituwah is the most important sacred site to the Cherokee people,” said EBCI Principal Chief Michell Hicks. “We purchased the site for the sole purpose of ensuring protection for future generations of Cherokees.”
Kituwah is about nine miles from the EBCI boundary. Archeologists speculate the site has been inhabited for about 10,000 years.
After the EBCI purchased the land in 1997, a University of North Carolina group examined the mound and surrounding acreage. It found 15 burials and speculated there could be as many as 1,000 or more graves on the land.
Tribal Officials meet with Duke Energy concerning Kituwah Site
February 19, 2010
SUBMITTED By LYNNE HARLAN
Principal Chief Michell Hicks and the Tribal Council met with Duke Energy President Brett C. Carter on Thursday, Feb. 18 regarding Duke Energy’s Hyatt Tie in Substation in Swain County. Tribal officials voiced concerns that the substation, currently under construction, presents a significant negative impact to the tribe’s Kituwah site.
Kituwah (pronounced Gee-doo-wah) is known as the mother town of the Cherokee and is regarded as the most sacred site still in existence for the Cherokee people.
Chief Hicks said, “We wanted to open the discussion about the substation with Duke Energy so they are aware of our concerns. Our primary concern is that this discussion was not held prior to planning and execution of this project. The Tribe has always had a positive relationship with Duke however our first priority is to protect the sacred site of Kituwah for future generations.”
Carter met with Chief Hicks and Principal Chief George Wickliffe, of the United Keetowah Band of Cherokee from Oklahoma, before joining the EBCI Tribal Council.
Duke Energy staff presented the plan for the project, currently being constructed on an adjacent hillside, and offered a series of mitigation plans to minimize the negative impact which has tribal leaders concerned. Possible mitigation includes the utilization of materials and wildlife plantings to minimize visual impact.
Several tribal members were also in attendance as were officials from Swain County.
Chief Hicks continued, “I am confident that Mr. Carter is fully aware of our concerns and that together we can work toward a resolution which protects the integrity of this site while meeting the need for energy in the region. Kituwah is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites and considerations for its protection are paramount for both Swain County and the Tribe.”
EBCI leaders expect to work with Duke Energy in the coming weeks to propose solutions which are amicable to both interests.
Lynne is the public relations officer for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
http://www.nc-cherokee.com/onefeather/2 … uwah-site/
Keetoowah Cherokee religion, origin as a people, centered around townsite of Kituwah
Written by MARILYN CRAIG, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians
Friday, 19 February 2010 12:36
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Chief George Wickliffe of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma (UKB) joined Chief Michell Hicks of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to meet with leaders of Duke Energy Carolinas on Wednesday, February 17 in Cherokee, North Carolina. The meeting was to discuss the proposed Hyatt Creek Tie Station, a power substation planned to be built at Kituwah, the Mothertown of the Cherokee people.
Just across the Tuckaseegee River from the property the Eastern Band owns, where the ceremonial mound is located, the proposed site is part of the original town which is the mothertown and where the Creator first gave the religious fire and instructions to the Cherokee people. The small portion of Kituwah that is owned by the Eastern Band is on the National Historic Register, and would be adversely affected by the tie station. The United Keetoowah Band claims the entire area of Kituwah to be a Traditional Cultural Property, and recognizes it is still used for religious purposes today.
“It is like the Vatican to the Catholic, or the Garden of Eden to the Christian,” said UKB Chief George Wickliffe.
During the meeting, the Duke Energy leaders acknowledged they had not approached the project with due diligence in regards to the federally recognized Cherokee tribes, and assured the UKB and the Eastern Band that they would maintain an open line of communication with both tribes, effective immediately.
Chief Wickliffe issued a statement earlier reciting not only the ancient history of the site, but its continued religious importance to traditional Keetoowah Cherokee people.
“Keetoowah Cherokee religion, and origin as a people, are centered around the townsite of Kituwah,” the statement read.
The UKB’s Council recently passed a resolution to support the Eastern Band, and as a federally recognized tribal government, expects to continue working adamantly in resolving the issue for the benefit of all people involved and affected.
“We are taught as Keetoowah Cherokee people to be kind and humane. We realize the tie station is necessary, but not right there,” said Wickliffe.
Several options were discussed to relocate the tie station, and Chief Wickliffe feels satisfied that a resolution to the situation will be forthcoming.
http://www.nativetimes.com/index.php?op … ;Itemid=19
this is really a sad situation!!! I have been down to "Kituwah" a couple times when visiting, very impressive place!!
week of 2/24/10
Report shows Duke considered impact on Kituwah
By Giles Morris • Staff writer
In the wake of the controversy surrounding the company’s proposed substation, Duke Energy representatives claimed they were unaware of the project’s potential impact on the Cherokee’s most valued site.
But Russ Townsend, historic preservation officer for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, isn’t so sure. Townsend received an archeological report that Duke conducted on the site of the substation in 2008.
“It basically clarified that Duke did know all of these things they were saying they weren’t aware of,” Townsend said. “That was disappointing. They’re not required by law to consult with me, but they’ve always said they wanted to be a good neighbor.”
Archeologically, the substation project’s interference with Kituwah presents an interesting dilemma.
The EBCI bought 309 acres around the mound site in 1996, and an archeological survey the following year discovered a 65-acre village site that confirmed a long term of settlement. The mound site and the surrounding village are listed separately on the federal register of historic places.
The mound, 170 feet in diameter and five feet tall, formed the base for the council house where the Cherokee conducted some of their most sacred ceremonies.
The Duke substation project is taking place on a surrounding hillside that is not owned by the tribe. Duke considers the project an upgrade of an existing line, and therefore is not bound to a public vetting process that would involve consulting with state historic preservation officials. The substation site covers a 300 by 300 foot square, and its structures will be 40-feet high.
But the Cherokee have argued the project directly threatens the integrity of the Kituwah site.
Tom Belt, who teaches Cherokee language and culture at Western Carolina University, explained that the concept of the Kituwah mothertown for the Cherokee would encompass the entire area within a day’s walk of the council house. Belt said the actual valley and its mountains play crucial roles in spiritual ceremonies held on the solstices and in the cosmology that support the tribe’s clan structure.
“On those days if you stand at the mound where the council house was, the very place the light hits first is on the seven peaks on that mountain where the substation will be built,” Belt said.
Townsend said the archeological report filed by Duke confirmed there were 15 important sites within a mile of the substation project, and two nationally registered sites within a half mile. Townsend said there are likely no artifacts left in the ground in the area, but the report, conducted by a private firm, leaves little doubt about its archeological significance.
“It’s my professional opinion that this is really a true adverse impact to Kituwah,” Townsend said. “It’s not just a site on a hill we don’t want developed.”
http://www.smokymountainnews.com/issues … eport.html
week of 3/3/10
Swain County moratorium could stop Duke substation
By Giles Morris • Staff writer
Swain County has entered the fight over Duke Energy’s proposed electrical substation that would mar views in a rural farming valley near a highly sacred Cherokee site.
Swain commissioners are considering a moratorium that would halt any electrical and telecommunications substations that require either a county building permit or soil and erosion permit. The county has scheduled a public hearing on the moratorium for Tuesday, March 9, at 1 p.m. at the county administration building.
According to County Manager Kevin King, the moratorium is intended to give the county time to develop an ordinance regulating substations.
County Chairman Glenn Jones said the moratorium was not aimed at the Duke Energy substation project directly, but it was an outgrowth of talks between the commissioners, Duke leadership and Cherokee tribal leaders over the issue.
“We’re not going to pass anything that’s just going to be detrimental, but we wanted to pass something so people can’t start scratching around without talking to us,” Jones said.
Site preparation for the substation pad began last November on a mountainside tract in the Ela community between Bryson City and Cherokee. Duke never received any county permits for the work and did not file an application with the North Carolina Utilities Commission.
Swain County commissioners learned of the extent of the substation and line upgrade projects only after members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians came to a board meeting to complain. Cherokee is upset that the substation and associated transmission lines will impact the character of Kituwah, which historically served as the spiritual and political center of the Cherokee.
Jones said the commissioners plan to pass the moratorium at the special public hearing next week and have an ordinance in place within 60 days.
“Within 60 days, we’ll have some kind of ordinance in place so we can move forward,” Jones said.
King said county commissioners came away from the meeting last month in Cherokee realizing they needed their own regulations. At that meeting, Duke Energy Carolinas President Brett Carter made it clear the reason his company had consulted with Jackson County over the substation and transmission line project was that their ordinances required it.
“He made it clear that if you have a local ordinance, you’d have a seat at the table, and if you don’t have an ordinance, you don’t have a seat at the table,” King said.
Swain Commissioner David Monteith said the moratorium was a way to bring Duke to the table now and in the future.
“I think the moratorium is a way to get them to sit down and talk with us, not only now but even more so in the future,” Monteith said. “I feel that Duke owes the people of Swain County and Western North Carolina more respect than what they’ve given us ... which is nothing.”
Immediate remedy or
It’s not clear whether Duke’s current substation project will be directly affected by the moratorium or the ordinance the county puts in place.
King said Duke’s regional manager Fred Alexander was concerned enough to call and ask him if the moratorium would affect the substation.
“He was basically asking whether this would impeded the project, and I said he’d probably need to consult their attorneys on that,” King said.
Duke spokesman Jason Walls said it was too early to tell how the moratorium would affect the project, but the company’s attorneys would review the documents as they were made available.
“We’re engaged with the county to better understand what the moratorium would entail and until we see the actual document, we won’t know how it might affect the company’s plans,” Walls said.
David Owens –– a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Institute of Government who specializes in land-use law –– believes Duke would have to make the case that they had a vested right in the project to claim exemption from the moratorium. Under vested rights claims, developers who are already underway with a project can be exempt from regulations that come along later.
“They would have to show that they’d sunk some cost in this particular location and those costs would be lost if the structure were moved to a different site,” Owens said.
Owens said the announcement of a public hearing on a moratorium by Swain commissioners sets the stage for whatever legal arguments are to come.
“Once a county sends a notice of a moratorium, that freezes the status quo,” Owens said. “The question is what is Duke’s position at that point.”
In 2006, state legislators tightened the laws governing moratoria imposed by local governments. The statute mandates that counties state the problems that necessitate a moratorium, list the development projects that could be affected, name a date for the end of the moratorium, and develop a list of actions designed to remedy the problem.
Us and them
Duke is currently in negotiations with the Eastern Band over whether to mitigate the visual impact of the substation or move the project altogether. Swain County’s actions have added pressure to the energy giant.
King said the fact that many tribal members are Swain County residents motivated the commissioners to act.
“Every tribal member that lives in Swain County votes in our election, so as far as the board is concerned there is no ‘us’ and ‘them.’ It’s all ‘us,’” King said.
Both the county and the tribe have offered Duke alternative sites for the substation. King said he offered a site in the county’s industrial park.
“That’s an area that’s visually polluted already,” King said. “We’re trying to deliver alternatives. The tribe is trying to deliver alternatives, and hopefully we can all get this resolved.”
Swain County officials have stressed, as has the tribe, that they prefer an amicable resolution to the issue rather than a legal battle.
“If coming out of this we could get an open dialogue with Duke, this can be a positive thing for Swain County in the future,” Monteith said.
http://www.smokymountainnews.com/issues … orium.html
Update: EBCI and UKB meet with Duke Energy about substation
By Will Chavez
Mon, Mar 01, 2010
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Chiefs from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the United Keetoowah Band met with Duke Energy officials on Feb. 17 in Cherokee, N.C., regarding a substation being built near the Kituwah mound.
Duke Energy President Brett Carter listened to concerns from both tribes regarding the substation’s impact on the Kituwah site, which many people consider to be the Cherokee mother town.
The station is being built in a mountainous area, owned by the power company, near the Tuckasegee River and above the Kituwah site, which the EBCI owns.
Duke Energy spokesman Jason Walls said grading of the site continues, but no substation equipment has been placed.
“We had already started grading, so we just couldn’t abandon the site and just leave,” Walls said.
Duke Energy purchased 35 acres of land for the substation or tie station, but only 15 acres is being cleared, which includes an access road, Walls said.
During the Feb. 17 meeting, Cherokee leaders emphasized that Kituwah is regarded as the most sacred site still in existence for the Cherokee people.
“It is like the Vatican to the Catholic or the Garden of Eden to the Christian,” said UKB Chief George Wickliffe.
Wickliffe said the proposed station site is part of the original town where the Creator first gave the religious fire and instructions to the Cherokee people.
“The United Keetoowah Band claims the entire area of Kituwah to be traditional cultural property and recognizes it is still used for religious purposes today,” he said. “We realize the tie station is necessary, but not right there.”
EBCI Principal Chief Michell Hicks said his tribe’s primary concern is that discussion between the tribes and the power company was not held prior to the tie station project. During the meeting, Duke Energy leaders acknowledged they had not approached the project with due diligence in regards to the federally recognized Cherokee tribes, but assured tribal leaders that they would maintain an open line of communication with both tribes.
Walls said the meeting allowed for both sides to learn from one another. He said Duke Energy officials informed tribal officials about the need to upgrade existing area power lines and learned about the significance of the Kituwah site.
“We certainly left that meeting with a commitment to the folks in attendance that we would look at additional options that we may be able to take advantage of to further mitigate the visual impact of the substation,” he said.
At the meeting, Duke Energy staff presented the plan for its 300-foot-by-300-foot square tie station with 40-foot towers and offered mitigation plans, such as using dark metal and planting natural vegetation, to minimize the negative impact that’s concerning tribal leaders.
“I am confident that Mr. Carter is fully aware of our concerns and that together we can work toward a resolution which protects the integrity of this site while meeting the need for energy in the region. Kituwah is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites and considerations for its protection are paramount for both Swain County and the tribe,” Hicks said.
EBCI leaders said they expect to work with Duke Energy on solutions agreeable to both interests.
No CN officials attended the Feb. 17 meeting, but Principal Chief Chad Smith said the CN was not asked to attend and believes it is appropriate for the EBCI to lead in preserving Kituwah.
“We’re confident that the EBCI can protect the interests of all Cherokees as it relates to the Kituwah,” Smith said. “We are confident that EBCI conveyed to Duke Energy that the Cherokee Nation is united with them on this issue.”
Swain passes Moratorium on Duke Construction
March 9, 2010
By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Construction will halt on a Duke Energy substation near the Kituwah Mound in Swain County thanks to a 90-moratorium passed by the Swain County Commissioners on Tuesday, Mar. 9.
“I’m very proud that Swain County Commissioners are stepping up to the plate,” said Natalie Smith, an EBCI tribal member who has helped to spearhead an effort to stop construction at the site. “I feel that historically we have, as a county, sort of been on the short end of the stick, and I feel that this time we’re stepping into the future.”
Swain County Commissioner David Monteith commented, “I felt that Duke Power should have came to Swain County even though we do not have any ordinance to stop it or talk about it; out of respect to us.”
He said that simple consultation could have prevented the entire problem. “We were definitely uninformed on this. I think if the Tribe and Swain County had been informed on this to start with, I believe we would not be here today. It could have all been settled. I want the people of Swain County to have a say.”
Renissa Walker, Kituwah Preservation & Education Program director, attended the meeting on her own time as an EBCI tribal member and citizen of Swain County. Prior to the vote, she told the Commissioners, “Thank you for making the effort, for putting something on paper, to stop this.”
She said the construction at Kituwah doesn’t just affect members of the Tribe but all of Swain County. “We will keep on talking and we will keep on yelling until it is stopped there forever.”
Fred Alexander, Duke Power spokesperson, attended the meeting and said afterward, “We’re trying to find alternatives that would meet the electrical needs of our customers in Swain County and in part of Jackson County and do it in a way that would get us off of that mountain. That’s our goal.”
He related that Duke Power is currently reviewing alternative sites off the mountain where construction was occurring including several sites recommended by the Tribe. “We’re serious as a heart attack that we want to meet our customer’s needs and be respectful to our Cherokee customers.”
Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy is supportive of the moratorium. “I would support anything that would stop the project and hopefully give us time to come up with a solution that would be equitable for the power company and for the Tribe.”
http://www.nc-cherokee.com/onefeather/2 … struction/
Duke substation near sacred Cherokee site halted
By Jon Ostendorff • March 16, 2010
CHEROKEE — Swain County leaders have stopped — for now — a Duke Energy substation planned near a sacred Cherokee site.
The Board of Commissioners approved a 90-day ban on electrical and mobile telephone towers to give county staff time to research an ordinance that would regulate their construction and require public input before they are permitted.
The move garnered praise Monday from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which had been upset that the power company was building a substation on a hill overlooking the Kituwah site.
Archaeologists believe the site is the ancestral mother town of the tribe, inhabited at least 9,000 years ago. Tribe members said the substation would have desecrated the site.
Principal Chief Michell Hicks said that protecting Kituwah was a top priority.
“The Swain County moratorium has allowed residents, leaders and the tribe an opportunity to present alternatives to the construction of the substation near the Kituwah site,” he said. “We are working diligently to provide options for Duke Energy and will continue to keep the lines of communication open.”
Swain County Commissioner David Monteith said his board got the idea for the moratorium and ordinance after attending a recent meeting between the tribe and the power company.
The company told the tribe it wasn't required to discuss its building plans with the public or governments because Swain County didn't have a law requiring that, he said.
“We felt like maybe it was best to have one,” Monteith said. “I really felt like it was a slap in the face, and the other commissioners did too, that nobody sat down with us and showed us the drawings.”
The board voted unanimously on March 9 for the moratorium.
County Manager Kevin King said the county isn't aware of any other mobile phone towers or electrical towers in the works.
Other counties in Western North Carolina have laws requiring public input before towers are constructed.
Monteith said the county was caught off-guard by the project. County leaders didn't realize it was a power substation until the tribe raised concerns.
He said he was disappointed that Duke didn't tell anyone about its plans.
“You would think (Duke would share its plans) out of professional courtesy, if nothing else,” he said.
The company said it will work to reduce visual impacts of the station and investigating alternate sites. "We look forward to working closely with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Swain County Commissioners on ways to meet the growing energy needs of the community, while minimizing visual impacts of the transmission tie station and lines," said spokesman Jason Walls on Tuesday morning.
http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs. … 0303160014
Group petitions to halt project at sacred tribal site
Duke Energy wants to put power station near land Cherokee Indians claim as birthplace.
By Bruce Henderson
Posted: Thursday, Apr. 01, 2010
A citizens' group has asked the N.C. Utilities Commission to stop Duke Energy's work on power lines and an electrical station near a sacred Cherokee Indian site in the N.C. mountains.
Duke has cleared land overlooking Kituwah, which the Cherokees recognize as the birthplace of their tribe. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has said it wasn't told in advance of Duke's plans.
Swain County commissioners, worried about harm to the mountains' scenic beauty, last month adopted a 90-day moratorium on such projects. That stopped Duke's work.
A group of county residents, many of them tribal members, filed papers Wednesday to halt the project for good.
Citizens to Protect Kituwah Valley and Swain County asked the commission to order Duke to stop work, apply for a permit assessing other sites and restore the cleared area. The group also wants the commission to hold a hearing.
"They just need to start over," said Natalie Smith, the group's chairman. "We need to go back in time."
Duke has said it didn't need the commission's permission to start the project because it involved an upgrade of existing power lines, not new ones, to meet growing power demand. The utility says it is working with the Cherokees and Swain County to mask the visual impact of the project and consider new sites.
"We really believe that at the end of the day we'll come up with a solution that works for Duke Energy, the Eastern Band and Swain County," Duke spokesman Jason Walls said.
The citizens' group charged that Duke ignored the archaeological importance of Kituwah and broke utilities law in not seeking the commission's approval. It alleges Duke chose the Kituwah site because it was the cheapest alternative, and that the project will mostly benefit development in neighboring Macon County.
http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/0 … z0juWVuvZK
Please sign the petition!
SAVE KITUWAH - THE MOTHER TOWN OF THE CHEROKEE
Target:Duke Energy, Cherokee People, World
Sponsored by: Cherokee Chastain Ash
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/save-k … e-cherokee
State to rule on Duke substation near Cherokee mother town
By Jon Ostendorff • April 6, 2010
CHEROKEE — A citizens group wants the N.C. Utilities Commission to stop Duke Energy from building a new substation near the Kituwah site, the mother town of the Cherokee people.
Citizens to Protect Kituwah Valley, led by Cherokee resident and businesswoman Natalie Smith, said in a complaint to the commission that Duke didn't get the proper permit before it started building the $79 million substation in Swain County.
The group, with about a dozen members representing Cherokee and Swain County, formed to fight the power company.
Construction of more than 50 towers for the substation will desecrate the nearby Kituwah site, according to the complaint. Kituwah is the spiritual and cultural center of the Cherokee.
“Duke Energy apparently made its (site) decision based solely on the alternatives that cost less rather than the alternatives with fewer overall impacts,” the group said in its complaint.
The utilities commission regulates public utilities, including power companies. It has oversight over rates, services and issues permits required for new electric transmission lines.
Duke must respond by April 16.
The commission will rule on whether to grant the citizens group an injunction stopping the project on April 27. It will rule on the issues raised in the complaint at a later date, a commission attorney said.
Kituwah is considered the spiritual and cultural center of the Cherokee.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opposes the project, as does the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation.
Swain County leaders stopped construction there in March with a 90-day moratorium on towers after learning of the plans. The tribe noticed the work after land clearing started on the site.
Substation to help power casino expansion
The power company said the substation is a half-mile from the Kituwah site across the Tuckasegee River and across four-lane U.S. 74 near existing transmission lines. Duke said the transmission lines and substation are needed to meet electric demands for homes and businesses, including the expanding Harrah's Cherokee Casino and Hotel.
According to the complaint, Duke started building the substation and transmission line project despite finding evidence of artifacts and ancient burials in its archeological survey of the area. And the company didn't consider options that would avoid harm to the environmental and cultural resources in the area.
State utility laws require power companies to do that when building new transmission lines.
The group also said in its complaint that the company would use the station and lines to serve Macon County, not the Cherokee Indian Reservation or Swain County.
Duke leaders met with Principal Chief Michell Hicks in February. The company said it understands the importance of the Kituwah site and is looking at alternatives suggested by the tribe.
“We believe that we will be able to reach a mutually agreeable solution with both the Swain County commissioners and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian tribal council,” said company spokesman Jason Walls in a written statement.
Tony Wike, an attorney for the commission's public staff, said the commission can consider the environmental and cultural impact of the substation and transmission lines even if Duke doesn't need a permit for the project.
Expansion of existing transmission lines doesn't require permits.
Wike said this type of complaint is unusual in North Carolina, happening less than once a year.
Cherokee is the only Indian reservation in the state.
http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20 … 60032/1009
week of 4/7/10
Duke faces yet another hurdle on substation
By Giles Morris • Staff writer
A coalition of Cherokee and Swain County residents have stepped up the pressure on a proposed Duke Energy substation in the vicinity of the sacred Cherokee mothertown, Kituwah.
Last week, a coalition of more than a dozen people filed a formal complaint with the N.C. Utilities Commission asking the regulatory body to halt the project. According to critics, the substation and related transmission lines would mar views of a rural valley between Cherokee and Bryson City and alter the character of the nearby Cherokee ceremonial site.
Natalie Smith, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, has been an outspoken critic of the substation and has spearheaded a grassroots effort to move it away from Kituwah. Smith is the only named complainant in the case, but says the coalition includes a mix of county residents, property owners, business owners and tribal members.
“This wasn’t started or formulated for the Eastern Band’s interest,” Smith said of the challenge. “It’s for all the citizens of Swain County and all Cherokee people.”
The coalition’s complaint alleges that Duke Energy began work on the substation without state approval required for projects that exceed a certain capacity and that the project will have significant adverse impacts on residents.
Duke Energy spokesperson Jason Walls released a written statement reiterating the company’s willingness to work in conjunction with tribal leaders to resolve the issue.
Duke is considering alternative sites for the substation suggested by the tribe. It is also looking for ways to reduce the visual impact should it stay in its proposed location, Walls said.
Smith expressed her concern that the tribe has not taken any legal measures to stop the project, even after the tribal council authorized legal action in February.
“I’m curious as to exactly why they haven’t, and I suspect that it is politics,” Smith said. “If it proves to be politics, then I think our leaders need a major recalibration of their priorities, because Kituwah is the heart and soul of our people. It’s beyond any individual or political status.”
The utilities commission has the power to issue an immediate injunction on the project pending resolution of the complaint, but the project has already been halted.
Last month, Swain County commissioners passed a moratorium that put a stop to the project for 90 days, enough time for the county to create an ordinance regulating substations and cell towers.
http://www.smokymountainnews.com/issues … _duke.html
Duke Energy halts substation construction near Kituwah mound
A marker designating the historic Kituwah site near Bryson City and 11 miles from Cherokee, N.C. (File photo)
By Will Chavez
Published:4/27/2010 7:07:54 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – In a response to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, Duke Energy in April committed to halting construction of an electric substation near the historic Kituwah site except for erosion control on land already cleared.
The commitment came before an April 27 NCUC hearing that was scheduled to consider granting an injunction to stop the construction of the substation near the “Mother Town” of the Cherokee people.
The group Citizens to Protect Kituwah Valley filed a complaint with the commission on March 31 to stop construction. The NCUC then gave Duke Energy until April 16 to respond to the complaint.
The complaint states the substation’s visual and physical encroachment “is a desecration of the sacred Kituwah Valley,” which is considered by the Cherokee tribes as a “spiritual and cultural center,” and Duke did not get the proper permits before starting the $52 million project.
In its response, Duke stated the substation project is a transmission line upgrade and is exempt from public permits. However, the company agreed to halt construction and work with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Swain County officials on a solution.
The citizens group, led by Cherokee, N.C., resident Natalie Smith, confirmed on April 23 that Duke “has committed to engage in settlement discussions with the group and others.”
Duke Energy began clearing nearly 40 acres for the station south of the historic Kituwah site in 2009 and was met with protests from Cherokee people and all three Cherokee tribal governments. In March, Duke stopped work at the site because of a 90-day moratorium issued by Swain County commissioners.
Duke Energy spokesman Jason Walls, in a written statement, reiterated the company’s willingness to work with tribal leaders to resolve the issue. He said Duke is considering alternative sites suggested by the EBCI for the station.
At an April 16 joint council between the EBCI and Cherokee Nation, EBCI Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Russell Townsend confirmed the EBCI is in discussions with Duke to place the station at one of two alternate sites away from Kituwah.
He said Swain County officials have also offered a location in an industrial park.
Townsend said his office learned of the project in late 2009, but could not stop it because it was not a federal project.
“When we discovered this early in December, we very quickly went about trying to ascertain if in fact it was a federal undertaking that Duke had not consulted us on,” he said. “If it was a federal undertaking, Duke Energy would have been forced to consult with the tribe before building.”
Townsend’s office also checked with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and learned the only utility lines it oversees are those directly connected to a power-generating facility. Because Duke is building a substation, or tie-in station, to bring in electricity from a generator and release it, the FERC does not regulate it.
Townsend said he also looked at Army Corps of Engineer permits because 37 acres were being cleared for the station near the Tuckasegee River. He said his office thought Duke might have filed a permit with the corps. However, Duke was not required to obtain a corps permit.
“At that point and time we found out this was fully in the state’s purview to regulate. It’s really an issue for the state utilities commission,” Townsend said.
He said his preservation office has never studied the area where Duke has cleared land for the station because it’s private property. But there are 15 archeological sites within a mile of the Duke property, he said.
Townsend said the EBCI has spoken with Duke’s archeologist, who told them there is a “moderate-to-high probability” that there is something (artifacts) there. He said the archeologist performed an archeological survey of the land at 30-meter intervals before it was cleared.
“It’s a little wider than we would have been comfortable with, but nobody asked us,” Townsend said. “Nevertheless, they didn’t find anything and this was a professional archeological firm that did the study for them in 2008.”
He said the archeologist dug to sterile subsoil, which is clay or sand where there are no artifacts, and sifted the dirt for artifacts and remains before reaching the subsoil.
“They had no positives in the 30 acres or so they surveyed up there. My feeling is it’s not as likely, based on that report, that there was something up there, but I have real concerns that it wasn’t a thorough enough survey from our point of view,” Townsend said. “We’ve missed our opportunity to see anything because they’ve basically knocked 40 feet off of the top of that hill. So, we will never know in fact what was there.”
week of 5/5/10
Debate over Duke power lines shifts to second front
By Giles Morris • Staff writer
Imagine buying an idyllic piece of land in the mountains only to learn you’ll be living under a giant, humming transmission line the size of a 12-story building. That’s what happened to Swain County residents Paul Wolf and Jennifer Simon.
“This is unsellable now,” Simon said, looking at her manufactured home on Davis Branch. “Nobody is going to buy this property.”
The controversy over a Duke Energy power substation located in close proximity to Kituwah, one of the Cherokee’s most revered sites, has thrown the company’s larger line upgrade project into the spotlight. Now a group of Swain County residents who live along the power line right of way are saying the company ignored rules governing the construction of transmission lines that would have given them the chance to object to it.
“I believe there’s been a devaluation of my land, and I believe it’s quantifiable,” Wolf said. “What we’re asking for is a do-over, because Duke didn’t get a permit.”
Duke has initiated a massive upgrade of its West Mill transmission line, which serves parts of Jackson, Swain and Macon counties. The upgrade entails replacing the existing unobtrusive 66kv line mounted on wooden poles with a 161kv line mounted on 120-foot steel towers.
Wolf and Simon have joined residents who object to the substation near Kituwah in filing a complaint with the North Carolina Utilities Commission under the complainant name Citizens to Protect Kituwah Valley and Swain County.
A hearing on the complaint was canceled last week because the utility commission determined the complaint’s primary purpose — namely a request for an injunction on the work — was moot.
Duke has, according to the NCUC response to the complaint, voluntarily stopped work on the substation due to the dispute over its location. The substation would not only mar views for the spiritual and historical Cherokee mound site, but create a visual blight on the rural farming valley of Ela.
While the hearing was canceled, the utility commission has required the power company to respond to the citizens’ complaint in detail by May 10.
The ruling means that a new argument has emerged in the controversy. What began as Cherokee outrage over the new substation’s proximity to Kituwah has expanded to include questions about the process of upgrading a large stretch of transmission line. The complaint to the utility commission cites both issues.
“Although [Kituwah] is a vitally important issue to the Citizens, there are also serious matters addressed in the Complaint over the siting and construction of the transmission lines,” the complaint reads.
The Swain citizens group has banded together to fight Duke on both fronts.
“We have a better chance as a group than as a few disaffected landowners,” Wolfe said.
Don’t tread on me
Wolf and Simon know they are fighting a David versus Goliath battle. Both of them signed easements that permit Duke to use their land to develop their lines.
“When you buy land out here and you need power, which we all do, you basically have to sign a blanket easement,” Wolf said.
But the way Duke has gone about its business has shown such disrespect, according to Wolf, that he has no choice but to fight.
State law requires a utility constructing new transmission lines of 161kv to go through a process that includes an environmental assessment and public hearings. While Duke’s new lines feeding the substation through Swain and Jackson counties are indeed 161kv, Duke has argued the work is exempt since it is an upgrade and not new construction.
“This is an upgrade of an existing transmission right of way that has been there for decades,” said Jason Walls, Duke spokesperson.
For Simon and Wolf, that argument is absurd. They bought property along the right of way and didn’t mind the wood poles and power lines, which were mostly obscured by trees. In fact, the right of way served as a kind of greenway for the neighbors in the vicinity.
Now, though, they have to deal with a huge naked swathe of land marked by massive steel towers that hum through the night. Simon lives with Dorothy Proctor, who is 100 percent dependent on a pacemaker that could be affected by the electric and magnetic fields produced by the new high voltage line.
To add insult to injury, Simon claims the subcontractors and employees she has encountered have been dismissive. Work on the line upgrade began at the end of 2008. Simon recalled her first encounter with one of the engineers.
“We were sitting by the fire pit and a truck passed us and then turned around and came back,” Simon said. “I have a dog that’s protective and the man stopped the truck and said, ‘That dog is going to be a problem.’ And I said, ‘Yes he is. And who are you?’”
Wolf has his own horror stories. With sons ages 11, 7, and 4 accustomed to having the run of the land, he now has to contend with the human waste of the subcontractors.
“These guys have literally [defecated] all over my land and not covered it up,” Wolf said. “It’s disrespectful, it’s unsanitary, and it’s got to be illegal.”
Walls said Duke has not received any formal complaints about the behavior of contractors, but the company would take them seriously.
“This is not behavior that we tolerate from subcontractors, so if there are allegations about their behavior, we encourage our customers to let us know about them,” Walls said.
A battle on many fronts
In March, Swain County commissioners passed a moratorium on telecommunications and utility projects that effectively halted Duke’s construction of the power substation near Kituwah. The moratorium gave the county time to create an ordinance regulating the construction of those kinds of facilities.
The moratorium expires on June 9. Swain County Manager Kevin King said the county commissioners would likely begin reviewing draft regulations in the next week.
County Chairman Glenn Jones said he was not sure if the new ordinance would be an obstacle to the substation. Swain County and Duke are in negotiations over alternative sites for the substation, but Walls said it might stay where it is.
“At the end of the day, this may be the best site, but we are working very hard with the tribe and the county to determine if there are alternative locations or if we can do anything further to mitigate the impact of the tie station,” Walls said.
Neither Swain County or the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has filed complaints with N.C. Utility Commission. According to public staff there, if Duke satisfactorily responds to the complaints of the Swain County citizens’ group, the project will be cleared to move forward.
Walls said the timetable for the transmission line upgrade has not changed, and Duke would move forward as soon as it has resolved the issue of the substation’s location. According to Walls, the company’s capacity studies have shown that the power supply from the existing 66kv line could be inadequate for consumers as early as next summer.
Jones said Swain County is still looking for an amicable solution to the issue and has not considered joining the complaint.
“We’ve got to look at both sides and try to come to a happy medium,” Jones said. “If we need ever enter in... if that’s best for the citizens of the county, I guess it’s possible we could enter in.”
Meanwhile landowners like Simon and Wolf are challenging the idea that a signed easement is a license for Duke to do whatever they want on private land.
“Do we have to live in fear that by right of condemnation they’ll come back in and take more of our land?” Wolf said.
Wolf said he hopes the fight against Duke over the line upgrade will at the very least prompt the county to look into the way the company operates.
“We realize we may be screwed here, but maybe this can be a lesson for Swain County,” Wolf said.
• To learn more about the citizens’ group complaint, visit www.savekituwahvalley.com.
• To learn more about Duke Energy, visit www.duke-energy.com.
http://www.smokymountainnews.com/issues … lines.html
Update: Duke Energy says time short for alternate station location
Ani-Kituwah dancers perform in front of the historic Kituwah mound in June 2009. Cherokee people use the mound site for ceremonies, and the site is on the National Register of Historic Sites. PHOTO BY WILL CHAVEZ
By WILL CHAVEZ
Thurs, May 20, 2010
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Duke Energy officials said time is running short to find a suitable alternative site for its proposed substation to be built near the historic Kituwah mound, a site sacred to many Cherokee people.
In a May 10 response, Duke attorneys asked the North Carolina Utilities Commission to dismiss a complaint by Citizens to Protect Kituwah Valley calling for the company to stop building the station near the mound.
The complaint states the substation’s visual and physical encroachment “is a desecration of the sacred Kituwah Valley,” which is considered by the Cherokee tribes as a “spiritual and cultural center” and that Duke did not get the proper permits before starting the $52 million project.
Duke representatives said the station would tie in higher-capacity electric lines from a power plant to meet growing energy needs. Company officials also said they would work with those affected by the proposed plan to consider building the Hyatt Creek Tie Station in another location. The proposed station location that is drawing ire is about a half mile from the mound.
However, Duke attorneys Robert Kaylor and Brian Franklin wrote that “if a suitable alternative to the proposed Hyatt Creek Tie Station is not quickly identified and confirmed,” the company would have to build at Hyatt Creek “to be able to satisfy the undisputed need for additional capacity to serve its customers without serious consequences.”
Alternative sites proposed by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are still not feasible, Duke officials said.
At one site a landowner refused to sell the property. Other suitable sites have not been reviewed further because they are closer to Kituwah than the proposed Hyatt Creek site. Also, other sites suggested by Swain County officials or the EBCI are not feasible due to terrain limitations or because the property is not large enough.
In its response, Duke wrote that a present transmission line is no longer adequate to supply power to its customers, including the EBCI and its expanding Harrah’s Casino. Kaylor and Franklin said more power is needed “primarily due to a major $600 million expansion” at the casino and hotel along with expected residential growth.
“The company must take action. A loss of a transformer under the current configuration, and without the upgrade, could result in an outage lasting several days, or at a minimum, rotating blackouts,” the attorneys wrote.
EBCI citizen Natalie Smith, who is leading the citizens group, said the group is not against progress and realizes the need for electricity, but they do not want one of the mountains overlooking the Kituwah site desecrated. She said she resents Duke claiming the station is for the tribe and its growing casino.
Duke has stated the 90,000-square foot station, with 40-foot towers, would sit on 15 acres of the 35 acres the company purchased for $1.5 million, which left tribal and Swain County leaders concerned about the site’s visual impact.
Duke has provided mitigation plans to minimize the negative visual impact, including utilizing dark metal material, concealing the station by planting natural vegetation and realigning the station so the transmission lines enter the station at a different point.
Duke also provided computer-generated images of the design to EBCI and county officials to demonstrate the station “will be barely visible from the Kituwah mound and from vantage points even closer to the station.”
After Duke cleared the land for the station, Swain County commissioners imposed a 90-day moratorium on substations and towers, which will expire June 9. The EBCI, Cherokee Nation and United Keetoowah Band have formally protested Duke’s plans and have urged Duke to find another location.
Duke spokesman Jason Walls said the company must make a decision soon to meet its schedule to build the station and install power lines before mid-2011. Walls said the Hyatt Creek site could be the best site available.
week of 6/2/10
Swain County to air proposed zoning ordinance
By Giles Morris • Staff writer
In March Swain County commissioners voted to enact a moratorium that put a halt to Duke Energy’s substation project on a hill overlooking the Cherokee mound site, Kituwah.
The moratorium was passed amidst a heated dialogue between the county, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and Duke about the location of the project. It was intended to give the county time to develop an ordinance that would regulate the construction of telecommunications and utilities facilities on county land.
The Swain County commissioners will convene for a public hearing on the draft ordinance at 1:30 p.m. on June 7. County Attorney Kim Lay wrote the draft ordinance, and County Manager Kevin King said it is the first of three ordinances that together will give the county the power to enforce zoning regulations on building projects.
King said the document that will be considered at the June 7 meeting is a “policing ordinance” that gives the county the right to make sure utilities and telecommunications construction projects comply with its land disturbance regulations.
King said the county would work with outside legal counsel to develop two additional ordinances that would impose certain types of zoning regulations on public utility and telecommunications projects.
The major proviso of the first draft ordinance is its requirement that any project that involves the “construction and demolition of certain structures not otherwise subject to the North Carolina building code” and requires a land disturbance permit must wait six months from the date it files its application to begin work.
Homes, because they are subject to the building code, are not affected by the ordinance. But the language does mean that Duke Energy would not be able to resume the work on its substation for six months, should the board adopt the draft ordinance.
Duke has initiated a $79 million upgrade of its West Mill transmission line, which serves parts of Jackson, Swain and Macon counties. The upgrade entails replacing the existing unobtrusive 66kv line mounted on wooden poles with 17.5 miles of 161kv line mounted on 120-foot steel towers. The proposed 300-by-300-foot substation on a hill overlooking Kituwah mound is part of the line upgrade.
Duke has been in discussions with the county and the EBCI and both King and Principal Chief Michell Hicks have expressed their opinion that the dialogue has progressed to the point that they expect the substation to be moved.
“We’re all working toward the end of the substation project being up there,” King said.
The substation would mar the viewshed of the Kituwah site and the picturesque valley that lies between Bryson City and Ela along the Tuckaseegee River. Both the county and the EBCI have offered Duke alternative sites for the substation.
http://www.smokymountainnews.com/issues … oning.html
Duke Energy warns of blackouts for Western North Carolina as Cherokee oppose new station near Kituwah site
By Jon Ostendorff • June 6, 2010
CHEROKEE — Parts of Western North Carolina could see rolling blackouts if Duke Energy doesn't build a tie station planned near a sacred Cherokee site, the company says in a filing with the state.
Duke said the facility also is needed to power a $630 million expansion at Harrah's Cherokee Casino, one of the region's largest private employers and the economic engine for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
The $79 million Hyatt Creek station would include 100-foot towers on the mountainside above the Kituwah mound site.
Disagreement over the proposal has pitted the power company against tribe members who say the project would desecrate the spiritual and cultural center of the Cherokee people.
Duke Energy is exploring alternative sites, but a company spokesman said recently the station would need to be built soon to handle increasing demand in the region.
Duke wants dismissal
The company recently asked the state utility commission to dismiss a complaint from a citizens group working to protect the Kituwah site.
Archaeologists believe it is the tribe's ancestral mother town, having been inhabited at least 9,000 years ago.
The Eastern Band opposes the project, as does the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation.
Three state senators are also against the idea.
Company spokesman Jason Walls said the tie station needs to be operational by the middle of next year. It would route power across the electrical grid.
He said the company is considering half a dozen alternative sites but might be forced to build above Kituwah.
“If the only place we have to build is the current location, we will certainly be working with the stakeholders in that area to minimize visual impact,” he said.
Cherokee businesswoman Natalie Smith, who heads Citizens to Protect Kituwah Valley, said her group would continue to push for a new site.
“Their response was anticipated,” she said. “All that we are concerned with is due process, and we are looking forward to seeing this due process of the law through to a hearing.”
Alternate site offered
Work stopped on the facility last month after Swain County leaders passed a moratorium to give county staff time to create a series of laws that would regulate tower construction and require public comment before they are permitted.
County Manager Kevin King said the Board of Commissioners plans to hold a public hearing on the first of three ordinances
The temporary ban expires Wednesday.
The site is about half a mile from the Kituwah mound on the mountain across the Tuckasegee River and U.S. 74. A clearing for the station can be seen from the farm fields at Kituwah.
The company, in its filing with the utilities commission, said the station would upgrade 50-year-old transmission lines in the area.
“The existing West Mills transmission line is no longer adequate to supply the growing electrical demands of the company's local customers' homes and business, primarily due to a major $600 million expansion at Harrah's Cherokee Casino and hotel, coupled with the expected residual growth from this expansion,” Duke said in its filing.
The company plans to use what it calls “darkened steel” on the transmission line towers to help them blend with the mountainside.
The towers are hard to spot in Duke Energy photographs simulating what they might look like provided to the utility commission and the Citizen-Times.
King said the county has offered to trade the land Duke bought for $1.5 million on Hyatt Creek Road for land at the county industrial park off U.S. 19.
The county would then sell the land above Kituwah and use the money to build a new Southwestern Community College campus closer to Bryson City, he said. The college building currently is on U.S. 23-74.
Walls said the company is considering the industrial park site.
Citizens to Protect Kituwah Valley has 3,400 supporters on the social networking website Facebook.
But some in Cherokee disagree.
Jerry Dugan has spent as much time as most anyone else planting the fields near the Kituwah mound. He used to manage farming there.
Members of the Eastern Band can use the land for everything from a small plot of lettuce to rows of corn. The land immediately around the sacred mound is protected, sectioned off by fence.
On a day last month he brought his grandson out to fly a radio-controlled toy helicopter.
Dugan, a tribe member, is not troubled by Duke Energy's plan to build a substation on the mountainside above the fields.
“It's progress,” he said. “You ain't going to be able to see much of it anyhow.”
Bryson City resident Horace Cagle, who is not a tribe member, was sitting with friends inside the shelter at the Kituwah site the day Dugan and his grandson visited.
He said he wouldn't be bothered by the electrical towers, either.
“You don't have to look that way,” he said.
http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20 … tuwah-site
Citizens group wants to see Duke Energy work permits
A marker near the historic Kituwah mound site near Bryson City, N.C., details some of the site’s history. COURTESY PHOTO
By WILL CHAVEZ
Wed, Jun 23, 2010
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Citizens to Protect Kituwah Valley members met with Duke Energy representatives on June 18 to discuss the company’s plans to build an electricity tie station close to the historic Kituwah mound site near Bryson City, N.C.
The site is considered sacred and the mother town for Cherokee people.
Natalie Smith, an Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizen who is leading the citizens group, said she couldn’t discuss specifics of the meeting other than it was “productive and positive for the citizens group.”
She said her group and the North Carolina Utilities Commission have requested documents from Duke, including permits and easements for working near Kituwah and plans for the Hyatt Creek tie station.
“We have a long list of questions and things for them to produce,” Smith said. “We also want them to prove this tie station is essential in powering the casino, which is what they have been claiming. We can’t find any proof of that.”
Smith said discussions between Duke, the EBCI and Swain County commissioners about moving the station from the Kituwah mound area to the county’s industrial park are serious and that placing the station there would be more appropriate.
The industrial park is less than two miles from where Duke has cleared 15 acres for the station.
However, relocating the station is “just one of many problems” with the situation, Smith said.
Her group also wants to know where dirt that workers removed this past winter from the station’s site was taken.
“We need to find it, and we need to do archeological studies,” she said.
Russell Townsend, EBCI Tribal Historic Preservation officer, said Duke’s archeologist told the EBCI there was a “moderate-to-high probability” there were artifacts at the site near Kituwah.
He said an archeological survey was performed at 30-meter intervals before the site was cleared, which is a lot wider than the tribe was comfortable with.
For the past five months, citizens and the governments of all three Cherokee tribes – the EBCI, the United Keetoowah Band and Cherokee Nation – have expressed concern the station would sit too close to Kituwah.
Swain County commissioners also became concerned and established a 90-day moratorium on March 9 stopping the station’s construction. Though the moratorium ended on June 9, the commissioners wrote an ordinance regarding the placement of new cell or electricity towers in Swain County. It calls for a company wanting to place any type of tower in the county to hold up to three public meetings regarding the company’s plans.
“Once we get that (ordinance) in place, there’s going to be other things put in it, but this gives us a start,” county commissioner David Monteith said. He said another commissioners meeting was scheduled for late June or early July to discuss and vote on the ordinance.
Monteith said he could not discuss any compromise with Duke until after the next commissioners meeting, but based on previous meetings, Duke is seriously considering moving the station to the county’s industrial park in Bryson City.
“I really think that’s going to happen. That’s where it should have been to start with,” he said.
In a response to the citizens group’s complaint to the utilities commission, Duke told the NCUC in May all alternative sites for the tie station proposed by the EBCI and Swain County were not feasible. However, Duke spokesman Jason Walls said Duke’s focus is finding an alternate site.
“The tie station is critical as part of that upgrade to that transmission system, but our focus is finding an alternate location for that site. And we’re very, very close to being able to find a location,” he said.
The industrial park is “one of a number of opportunities” the company is pursuing, he said. “It’s certainly not the only site we are looking at, but it’s certainly one of the sites that’s being considered,” Walls said.
He said Duke has met with Swain County commissioners and EBCI officials regarding an alternate site and are working “on a resolution that works for everybody.”
Duke Energy to move tie station from Kituwah area
By WILL CHAVEZ
Fri, Aug 06, 2010
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – After months of negotiations and moves by citizens and Swain County (North Carolina) officials to stop the construction of its Hyatt Creek tie station, Duke Energy announced Aug. 2 it would select another site for the station.
Duke officials acknowledged it was through “collaborative discussions” with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and county leaders that they planned to move “a critically needed new electric tie station” to a location not in direct view of the sacred Cherokee mound known as Kituwah.
The station site was within view from Kituwah, an ancient and sacred gathering place of the Cherokee people that is adjacent to the Tuckaseegee River and east of Bryson City, N.C.
The EBCI owns Kituwah and the tribe, along with the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band, consider it a spiritual site.
“I appreciate Duke Energy’s understanding of these sensitive issues and their hard work to identify alternate locations for the electrical station,” said EBCI Principal Chief Michell Hicks. “We are pleased that through the cooperation with Duke Energy we will continue to have reliable electricity and the landscape around Kituwah will be protected.”
After hearing concerns from Cherokee people and the Cherokee governments about the Hyatt Creek site, Duke worked for months with tribal and community leaders to identify alternate locations.
“Our customers expect and rely on Duke Energy to provide the electricity that powers their homes and businesses,” Duke Energy Carolinas President Brett Carter said. “Finding a new location for this important infrastructure allows us to deliver on our commitment to customers without impacting the landscape around Kituwah.”
UKB Chief George Wickliffe attended a meeting with Duke and EBCI representatives earlier in the year to discuss the significance of Kituwah, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and finding another location for the station.
Wickliffe said he is glad the tribes have retained their religious birthplace.
“I appreciate all the collaboration and efforts that Duke Energy has put forth and the hard work the Eastern Band Cherokees has accomplished,” he said.
By the end of 2010, Duke officials are expected to select an alternate site from two Swain County locations they have secured. One is inside the county’s industrial park while the other is in the Sheppard’s Creek area. After a selection is made, a community workshop will be announced where plans for the new station will be shared.
Swain County Commissioner David Monteith said because Duke officials chose not to have public meetings about the station before they began building it, county commissioners passed an ordinance in July requiring companies wanting to build in the county to meet with the public.
“Now Duke Energy will have to have public meetings on whatever they’re going to do in Swain County and inform the people. That’s a good thing without them throwing stuff up in people’s yards and them not even knowing about it until it’s done,” Monteith said.
He said he believes county commissioners helped force Duke to change its plans about building near Kituwah because of a 90-day moratorium they passed in March to stop the station’s construction.
“We literally put a lockdown on it until we could get an ordinance passed,” Monteith said. “Also, with the tribe and county working together, I think that was a big reason in getting that thing moved and letting them understand this involves people here.”
An electric tie station reduces voltage levels from high-voltage transmission lines to the lower voltage levels needed to serve area distribution substations.
Duke officials claim with the growth in the area, including the expansion of Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel and Casino, the current power delivery system is not adequate to meet energy demands.
“In addition to building a new tie station, we must complete the upgrade to a portion of one of the electric transmission power lines that delivers energy to Swain and Jackson counties, as well as the Cherokee Indian reservation. These improvements will be completed in early 2012 and will help ensure our ability to serve this growing area well into the future,” Carter said.
Citizens continue efforts to protect ancient Cherokee site
By WILL CHAVEZ
Wed, Aug 25, 2010
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Despite a North Carolina energy company agreeing to move its planned tie station farther away from the ancient mound of Kituwah, a citizens group still wants to know what happened to dirt, and possible tribal relics, taken from where the company cleared land for the station.
Citizens to Protect Kituwah Valley leader Natalie Smith said the group is reprioritizing its requests for Duke Energy and that wants to know what happened to dirt removed from the proposed station site near Kituwah.
“We intend to follow through. We may drop one or two items on our list. I’m not sure. But we are not finished,” she said. “Everyone is well aware that’s it’s very close (to the historic Kituwah site). The possibilities are there to have been something (in the removed dirt). There have been so many new archeological discoveries in the last 10 to 15 years for our tribe that it would be a tragedy to not have the opportunity to look through that dirt.”
Russell Townsend, a Tribal Historic Preservation officer with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, said there are 15 archeological sites within a mile of the proposed station site near Bryson, N.C.
“It’s in an area that’s pretty dense,” he said.
He said Duke Energy cleared 15 acres of land and “knocked 40 feet” off the top of a hill where the station was to be located. He added that Duke hired a survey team to study the area before it was bulldozed, but believes the survey wasn’t thorough enough and the opportunity to determine what was there has been lost.
Smith said it looks as if a lot of the topsoil was simply pushed off the side of a steep bank.
“There’s a lot there that could be looked through, but I’ve heard that some it (dirt) was sold or utilized as fill dirt for other projects,” she said. “It’s just a matter of integrity for me in this case. It would be the dignified thing to do to find out where that dirt went.”
She said she would like to see a joint effort by the EBCI, Cherokee Nation and United Keetoowah Band to buy the land Duke cleared for the station and land adjacent to Duke property that is for sale.
“We’re not three tribes. We are like three relatives. We’re one family, and I’d like to see a joint effort in this. It needs to be preserved. There doesn’t need to be any houses or anything up there,” she said.
Smith’s group, Swain County officials and the EBCI directly engaged Duke over its plans to build the Hyatt Creek tie station near Kituwah, which is considered the “Mother Town” of the Cherokee people.
The CPKV filed a complaint with the North Carolina Utilities Commission in March to stop Duke from building, while county commissioners passed a moratorium on the project and an ordinance requiring public meetings for such projects. Tribal officials met with Duke representatives to discuss alternate sites for the station.
“Each one was critical,” Smith said.