Manataka® American Indian Council
Cherokee Citizens Oppose Kituwah Power Plant
By Will Chavez, Senior Reporter, Cherokee Org.
(No one knows exactly how long the Cherokee have lived at Kituwah, but some estimates say 11,000 years. Cherokee American Indians in North Carolina are currently fighting the construction of an electrical station they say would impede the spiritual experience at Kituwah, a sacred mound that is cherished as the place where God gave the Cherokee their laws and their first fire. It is believed to have survived over ten thousand years.)
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.”
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