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Upper Ocoee Talking Points

Posted: 10/08/2002
by Sutton Bacon

The Tennessee Valley Authority has decided to use water in its rivers for power generation rather than other beneficial uses, contrary to the result of analyses of all economic data and the interest of the public.

Key Points:

1. The Upper Ocoee River is at risk of running dry.

Based on Management decisions made by the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Upper Ocoee River may not flow in the future. The Upper Ocoee is the site of the 1996 Olympics, World Cup Slalom and American Whitewater Ocoee Rodeo freestyle events.

  • Aside from two days of releases that are 'left over' from the cancelled 2001 World Championships due to 9/11/01, there will be no more releases scheduled for non-commercial recreation and events as there have been for the past six years.
  • The 'per customer' fee charged to commercial outfitters will make it unaffordable for them to run rafting trips on the Upper Ocoee.

2. Economics support an Upper Ocoee with its water flowing.

TVA is choking off an important segment of the local economy - river-based tourism - by its refusal to share Ocoee river water. The economic impact of water used for whitewater recreation on the Ocoee outweighs the value of water used for power production by over 30 to 1. Whitewater releases (twenty days per year) cost TVA ratepayers $0.02 annually.

  • Commercial rafting on the Upper Ocoee currently produces $210,000 per day. The cost to replace this power is only $6,650 for the equivalent 9-hour period.
  • Whitewater releases provide over 30 times more benefit for the local economy than does power generation.
  • Lost power cost per day 9.5 hr. release x 28,000 kw (Ocoee #3 power) x $0.025 KW/hr = $6,650 per whitewater release
  • Cost to TVA ratepayer: $6,650 WW release / 8,000,000 ratepayers = $0.0008 per WW release
  • Annual cost to TVA ratepayer assuming 20 days of releases: 20 days x $0.0008 = $0.02 cents annually

[Calculations derived from USFS 1996 DEIS for the Upper Ocoee River Corridor Recreational Development]

3. The public supports an Upper Ocoee with its water flowing.

Members of the public want TVA to increase recreational opportunities. 34% of those who attended public meetings during the Spring of 2002 felt that recreation should be TVA's top priority, while only 1% felt that it was a priority for TVA. Many of these respondents directly mentioned the Upper Ocoee as a concern. Conversely, 11% of attendees thought that TVA's top priority should be power generation, while 48% felt that it was their current priority.

4. TVA has ignored the interests of the public.

TVA has made management decisions that ignore the input of the Southeastern Tennessee economic community and the interest of the public. The only water releases that are planned for the Upper Ocoee in 2003 are the two days allocated in 2001 for the World Slalom Championships. Thereafter, TVA plans to release no more water for the use of private citizens. Separately, TVA plans to raise the levy for outfitter customers to $12.50, a level that cannot be regained sustainably by these businesses. Since they also have to meet minimum usage levels each year, this levy is certain to drive outfitters off the river and leave the river dry.

5. American Whitewater is asking citizens to help keep water flowing in the Upper Ocoee.

Ask the TVA Board of Directors to take responsibility for the regional economic data and voice of public opinion. We want TVA to provide water releases for public, non-commercial use and to establish a fair economic model with commercial outfitters on the Upper Ocoee that will be sustainable for the long term. We ask that citizens write to the Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors and ask them to maintain the Olympic legacy and the public trust of the citizens of Tennessee and the Southeastern US to free the water that belongs to the Upper Ocoee.