New TVA land policy too rigid, could hinder development
The Tennessee Valley Authority adopted a land policy last week that bans the sale of protected shoreline along 11,000 miles of the Tennessee River system for residential and retail development.
The policy, supported by environmental and conservation groups, was adopted by TVA’s Board of Directors on an 8-1 vote.
TVA director and former chairman Bill Baxter cast the lone dissenting vote.
“This policy is less flexible than we need in order to pursue and to achieve ... economic development,” Mr. Baxter said.
The plan affects 293,000 acres the federal agency manages along the 652-mile Tennessee River system and its tributaries. With that much land and shoreline, there is diversity. While wetland and waterfowl habitat may be ideal for some areas, others may be more suitable for residential development and outdoor recreation facilities. Some areas may be more suited to industrial uses.
“The overriding theme of the TVA land policy is the basic premise to preserve reservoir land remaining under TVA’s control in public ownership,” TVA director Susan Williams said.
That’s a good sound byte, but is really only so much rhetoric. “Public ownership” is a misnomer. By banning sale of TVA land for residential and retail development, the board has in reality made the land less accessible to the public.
TVA has been a major catalyst in economic development in the Tennessee Valley — especially in the Decatur area. Public-private partnerships have been a key in helping the region grow and prosper.
By adopting a rigid land development policy that effectively eliminates private residential or retail investment, TVA has limited growth potential along the system and taken away the flexibility inherent in any responsible land-use policy.