Parts of Western North Carolina could see systematic blackouts if Duke Energy doesn’t build a tie station as planned near a sacred Cherokee site, the company says in a filing with the state.
According to Duke Energy Spokesperson Jason Walls, the blackout severity would depend upon the company’s available equipment.
“If the equipment can no longer supply highest demand it accommodates during times of demand, then it may go on and off. “
Disagreement over the proposal has rutted the power company against Eastern Band Cherokee tribe members who say the project would violate the spiritual and cultural center of the Cherokee people.
“The main reason it’s been located in the area is to ensure reliable electricity for our company,” said Walls. “The current location is not permanent.”
Duke Energy is currently exploring alternative sites, but the station would need to be built soon to handle increasing demand in the region.
“Our focus now is finding an alternate site, ” said Walls. “We are not in position to today, but we are getting very close. No final decision has been made.”
“If the only place we have to build is the current location, there would be a critical voltage increase,” continued Walls, who claimed that the increase is a necessary upgrade.
“This would provide more reliable electricity. It’s all about meeting the electricity demands of the community.”
The facility is also needed to power a $630 million expansion at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, which is 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.
Duke Energy recently asked the state utility commission to override a complaint from a citizens group working to protect the Kituwah site. 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.