Duke drops energy station plan near historic Cherokee site

Charloette, North Carolina (AP) August 2010

Duke Energy has dropped plans for an electric station near a sacred Cherokee Indian site in western North Carolina, drawing praise from tribal leaders who had balked at the project.

The Charlotte utility said in a statement that it has found two alternatives to its original plan to build at a site overlooking a mound marking Kituwah, an important site for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The company said Monday it worked for several months with tribal and community leaders to find new locations.

Duke says one alternative is at the Swain County Industrial Park, nearly four miles from the original site. The other is at east of Bryson City, more than a mile from the sacred location.

“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.

Principal chief Michell Hicks said he was pleased with Duke’s willingness to look at other locations and understanding of the sensitive issues.

“The land of Kituwah, our mother town, is central to our identity as a tribal nation and I will do everything in my power to ensure this sacred site is protected,” he said in a statement.

The sacred Swain County site includes a mound 170 feet wide and 5 feet high in a field along the Tuckasegee River and surrounded by mountains. Cherokee tradition says the mound once was the foundation of buildings that held the sacred flame the tribe tended year-round.

Duke says the current power system in that area is not adequate to meet increasing energy demands, which has included the expansion of Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel and Casino. The company said it hopes to decide the new location by the end of the year and complete improvements in early 2012.