TVA Asks For Feedback on Ocoee Agreement (TN)
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is seeking public input on a proposed management agreement with the Ocoee River Outfitters Association, U.S. Forest Service and the State of Tennessee (State) that would establish partner responsibilities to provide recreational releases and management on the Ocoee River in Polk County, Tennessee. Current agreements on flow releases and management expire at the end of 2018, and this effort aims to replace those agreements. The public comment period ends on July 19, 2017.
Under the proposed agreements, TVA would provide water releases from Ocoee Dam No. 2 and No. 3 for a term of 15 years on the middle and upper sections of the Ocoee River beginning in 2019. Water releases would be based on a schedule framework similar to the water release agreements currently in place:
- On the upper Ocoee, there would be no change to scheduled releases (see proposed release calendar for 2019).
- On the middle Ocoee, the release schedule would be the same as the current schedule, except for the elimination of five weekdays in late September each year (see proposed release calendar for 2019). These five days were previously provided due to a historic TVA equipment maintenance schedule that is no longer needed.
Under the proposed management agreement, TVA would also grant a recreation easement to the State across three tracts of land (approximately 27.2 acres in total) and the USFS would make two tracts (approximately 3.7 acres in total) available to the State to improve recreational river access.
In addition, the State would be responsible for a commercial-use permitting program and oversight of commercial rafting activities on the Ocoee River both administered by Tennessee State Parks. The State’s responsibilities would include all general operational and maintenance activities necessary to facilitate commercial whitewater operations both within the TVA easement area and on two tracts of National Forest System lands. The State would also be responsible for emergency first response, law enforcement, traffic management, and other appropriate tasks along the Ocoee River corridor.
Importantly, the TVA website states: “The proposed water release agreement would not apply fees or restrict access to private boaters.”
TVA is conducting an Environmental Assessment to evaluate environmental, economic, recreational, and other impacts of the proposed agreement. Today, TVA initiated a 30-day public comment period to solicit public input on the scope of these proposed actions and the potential impacts and management issues that should be addressed in the Environmental Assessment. Based on the public’s feedback, TVA may develop and consider other alternatives during the review process. Paddlers will then have a chance to weigh in on the Draft Environmental Assessment.
American Whitewater encourages paddlers to file a respectful comment sharing your perspective, whatever that may be. American Whitewater will be filing comments sharing the results of our paddler survey, focused on the following concepts which paddlers are welcome to echo:
- Ocoee River releases are extremely valuable to the paddling community, the general public and the regional economy. TVA should fully consider these benefits.
- The TVA should consider an alternative under which they continue to provide the current schedule for the next 15-20 years, and provide any releases not paid for by the proposed payment agreements free of charge as a public benefit.
- The TVA should consider modest increases in flow volumes (total of 1200-1500cfs) during some releases to provide higher quality and more diverse recreation experiences.
- TVA should consider takeout improvements for private paddlers on the Middle Ocoee.
Any comments received, including names and addresses, will become part of the administrative record and will be available for public inspection. The public is encouraged to visit the following TVA website for more information: https://www.tva.com/Environment/Environmental-Stewardship/Environmental-Reviews/Ocoee-River-Whitewater-Rafting-Agreements
All written comments on this proposed action must be received on or before July 19, 2017. Written comments may be mailed to the address below or e-mailed to PLIC@tva.gov. For additional information, please contact the TVA Public Land Information Center by phone at 1-800-882-5263, or mail:
Tennessee Valley Authority
c/o Russell D. Smith
400 W. Summit Hill Drive, WT-11D
Knoxville, Tennessee 37902