By Joanna Grey Talbot
One of the things on my bucket list is to tour a dam and last weekend I had that opportunity. The Badin Volunteer Fire Department was celebrating their 100th anniversary and one of the many things offered throughout the day-long festival was tours of the Narrows Dam on the Yadkin River. Badin is a small town located in Stanley County about an hour east of Charlotte with its own unique history (blog post coming soon!).
The Narrows Dam is part of a series of four dams but it is the largest. It was started in 1913 by a French company (who founded the town of Badin), L’Aluminium Francais, but because of the start of World War I was bought and completed by Alcoa, Inc. (Aluminum Company of America) in 1917. The Narrows Dam was the largest in the country at 201 feet when it was finished. The four dams were built to power the Alcoa aluminum factory that was located in Badin. The huge building is still there but the factory was shut down in 2007.
Today the electricity generated by the four dams is sold on the grid. Each dam has an on-site crew but the turbines are controlled remotely from Alcoa’s dispatch in Tennessee. Unfortunately, the four dams were sold this summer to Cube Hydro Partners, a Maryland company that specializes in hydroelectricity. Alcoa is still an aluminum company and without the Badin plant the dams no longer fit within their business.
I hope the new company will continue to allow tours, though. The Narrows Dam is such a unique attraction!