By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Construction will halt on a Duke Energy substation near the Kituwah Mound in Swain County thanks to a 90-moratorium passed by the Swain County Commissioners on Tuesday, Mar. 9.
“I’m very proud that Swain County Commissioners are stepping up to the plate,” said Natalie Smith, an EBCI tribal member who has helped to spearhead an effort to stop construction at the site. “I feel that historically we have, as a county, sort of been on the short end of the stick, and I feel that this time we’re stepping into the future.”
Swain County Commissioner David Monteith commented, “I felt that Duke Power should have came to Swain County even though we do not have any ordinance to stop it or talk about it; out of respect to us.”
He said that simple consultation could have prevented the entire problem. “We were definitely uninformed on this. I think if the Tribe and Swain County had been informed on this to start with, I believe we would not be here today. It could have all been settled. I want the people of Swain County to have a say.”
Renissa Walker, Kituwah Preservation & Education Program director, attended the meeting on her own time as an EBCI tribal member and citizen of Swain County. Prior to the vote, she told the Commissioners, “Thank you for making the effort, for putting something on paper, to stop this.”
She said the construction at Kituwah doesn’t just affect members of the Tribe but all of Swain County. “We will keep on talking and we will keep on yelling until it is stopped there forever.”
Fred Alexander, Duke Energy spokesperson, attended the meeting and said afterward, “We’re trying to find alternatives that would meet the electrical needs of our customers in Swain County and in part of Jackson County and do it in a way that would get us off of that mountain. That’s our goal.”
He related that Duke Energy is currently reviewing alternative sites off the mountain where construction was occurring including several sites recommended by the Tribe. “We’re serious as a heart attack that we want to meet our customer’s needs and be respectful to our Cherokee customers.”
Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy is supportive of the moratorium. “I would support anything that would stop the project and hopefully give us time to come up with a solution that would be equitable for the power company and for the Tribe.”