The Committee said that ownership and management of the scheme could be held in a Trust established on behalf of the citizens of North Carolina. It said the Trust would have to obtain the required licence from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and suggested that such a move could be made during the relicensing process.

The pitch comes just a few weeks before the state’s Environmental Review Commission is to report on water issues along the Yadkin river, at the instigation of the law signed by the Governor in July last year.

Alcoa built the hydro power facilities almost a century ago on the Yadkin river, and four lakes were impounded by the scheme each with a powerplant. It was awarded a 50-year licence in 1958, and has been in talks for five years over future management of the scheme as part of the relicensing process.

In May 2007 Alcoa submitted a formal relicensing settlement deal signed by 23 stakeholder groups to FERC. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was issued by FERC staff – concluding that federal takeover was not a reasonable alternative – in late April last year, the same month the long-term licence expired.

A one year licence was issued by FERC to Alcoa, which expires in April and this is just before the deadline, in early May, for the state’s Department of Environment and Natural resources to decide on the firm’s application for a water quality certificate.