An orphaned yearling was released into the wild at Calderwood Overlook along U.S. 129 Monday to cap a ceremonial signing of a ``Dam Relicensing Settlement Agreement'' with Alcoa Power Generating Inc. (APGI), the electricity producing subsidiary of ALCOA.
The centerpiece of the agreement, which still has to clear some legislative hurdles and be formally approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, was the draw for dozens of politicians, conservationists and bureaucrats who gathered at the overlook.
Part of the relicensing deal, which spanned seven years and included consultation and input with dozens of private environmental groups and government agencies, calls for the protection of some 10,000 acres of mountain land between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cherokee and Nantahala national forests.
Alcoa Power Generating Inc. will grant a permanent easement on 5,700 acres of the rugged forest land to the Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy will also receive a 40-year easement on 4,000 acres of land. Both tracts will remain open to the public for current uses, and will see recreational improvements in the future. The larger tract will likely be sold to the Department of the Interior for an addition either to the Cherokee National Forest or Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The deal also included a bit of legislative housekeeping, since it could not proceed without a ``land swap'' between APGI and the National Park Service. That entails the trade of some 100 acres of flooded Chilhowee Reservoir land within the Park for 186 acres of APGI land between U.S. 129 and the current Park boundary.