Duke Energy won't build an electrical station near a sacred American Indian site, helping mend a months-long rift with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Duke said Monday it has secured two alternate sites to its initial choice, which overlooked a mound marking Kituwah, the Cherokees' "mother town." The site has been occupied for at least 9,000 years, archaeologists say.
The tribe, which had complained that it was not consulted before Duke began work, applauded the news. But a citizens group that filed a complaint before the N.C. Utilities Commission is still concerned about a power-line upgrade that is part of the project.
Duke said it will choose, by the end of the year, between two sites for the station. One is in the Swain County Industrial Park, 3.8 miles from Kituwah. County commissioners agreed Monday to a $400,000 option to sell 13 acres. The other site is privately owned land in the Shepherd's Creek area east of Bryson City, 1.4 miles from the sacred site.
"Finding a new location for this important infrastructure allows us to deliver on our commitment to customers, without impacting the landscape around Kituwah," Duke Energy Carolinas president Brett Carter said in a statement.
Michell Hicks, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, praised Duke's "understanding of these sensitive issues" and willingness to look for a new location.
Citizens to Protect Kituwah Valley and Swain County, which has fought the project, credited Duke for moving the site. But the group, which includes Cherokees and other local residents, objects to the tall new towers installed to upgrade power lines that will lead to the new station.
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