Free the Ocoee! Write the TVA...

Posted: 10/08/2002
by Sutton Bacon

Chairman Glenn L. McCullough Jr.
C/O Tennessee Valley Authority
400 W. Summit Hill Dr.
Knoxville, TN 37902-1499
Phone: 865-632-2101

Dear Chairman McCullough,

In the Fall of 2001, the public was assured by the TVA that the Reservoir Operations Study (ROS) was our public process to affect change on the Upper Ocoee and to support free recreational releases. Many individuals attended public meetings, wrote letters, and called you to tell you how both the citizens and the local business community feels. An overwhelming majority spoke out that TVA is not providing adequate management for recreation on the rivers it manages. Your own newsletter reported that 34% of those that commented thought that recreation should be the top priority for river management decisions while only 1% of those that commented felt that it was TVA's top priority.

Somehow though, you have now decided that the Upper Ocoee is outside of the scope of the study and have excluded it from further consideration. Your justification is that the Ocoee has already been the subject of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) through which, a recommendation for long-term use of the Upper Ocoee was presented. The TVA decision based on this EIS is exactly what elicited so much public outcry in the ROS, because it imposed unreasonable fees on the public. Fees on the Ocoee have never been discussed in a public forum, and in fact do not serve the recommendations in the findings of the 1997 EIS.

The ROS has failed the public, due to a unilateral decision made by the TVA that directly contradicts public opinion, as shown by your own scoping outreach.

Due to this decision, the Upper Ocoee will sit dry on all but two days next year, and will be completely dry in subsequent years. The monetary value of this river is 30 times more valuable flowing for recreational use than it is for generating power; does cutting the water make any sort of economic sense? The Ocoee is the backbone of a regional economy, has a 26 million dollar Olympic heritage, and belongs to the public: and it will sit dry next year. This is unacceptable.

It is now up to you, as the Chairman of the Board of the TVA, to take responsibility for the ROS's failure. I urge you to immediately take steps that restore water to the Upper Ocoee in an agreement that is acceptable to the key stakeholders -American Whitewater, the Ocoee Outfitters Association, the USDA-Forest Service, and possibly others. These negotiations should occur no later than December 1st of this year, to allow for the releases to benefit next years recreational season. Any settlement must include releases being provided without fees. The public, the USDA-Forest Service, and TVA itself have all stated that the provision of recreational releases is the best use of the water in the Ocoee system. There is no justification for charging the public for the most beneficial use of its water.

I am eager for you to settle this issue, and desire an agreeable solution to all parties involved.