News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


TVA gets applause for improving rivers

The Tennessee Valley Authority gets much grief for the pollutants its coal-fired power plants spew into the atmosphere. And while the improvement in scrubbers continues to take sulfur out of the smoke that belches from its chimneys, TVA still must improve to stop pollution.

Meanwhile, the federal agency should get credit for the astonishing results that are taking place in the rivers that form its network of lakes that supply hydroelectricity, river navigation and recreation.

Creating dams on rivers is often a tradeoff because lakes disrupt nature's way of cleansing and keeping the correct balance of oxygen in the water. Over time, the natural habitat disappears along with the free flowing "tailwaters" that do these important jobs.

Like adding scrubbers, restoring balance to the water is expensive. TVA has spent $44 million since the early 1990s to improve water along the Tennessee River's 652-mile watershed. And it will spend $17 million more on the second round of improvements.

Taking care of the oxygen content is a little like a city installing sewer lines — the improvements are out of sight and people forget until something goes wrong.

For instance, TVA redesigned its hydroelectric turbine blades to add oxygen as water passes through. It added waterfall-like weirs that add oxygen as the water tumbles forward. TVA even pumps surface water to the deepest parts of lakes to improve oxygen levels on reservoir bottoms.

As a result, outdoorsmen say fish and wildlife are coming back. In some of the smaller tributaries in Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia, the number of fish reportedly doubled.

Fish bring back other wildlife like blue herons, otters, mink and weasels. One of those rivers is the Elk that flows through Limestone County. Anyone who has taken a canoe trip down the Elk in recent years also probably saw wild turkeys and deer.

Let's applaud TVA for this conservation work.

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