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Regional Resource Stewardship Council
Public Lands Subcommittee

Policy Recommendations on TVA Transmission Line Rights-of-Way Maintenance Policies and Practices

Approved by the Regional Resource Stewardship Council on August 29, 2001

The TVA power service area contains approximately 17,000 miles of transmission lines. This includes approximately 230,000 acres of easements and fee rights-of-way. To maintain public safety and prevent disruptions of power service, TVA follows policies to limit the height of vegetation under transmission lines and trees near enough to fall into prescribed clearance zones even if they are not on TVA right-of-way. These practices are spelled out in the easements and agreements with property owners. Management of this vegetation is done largely through mechanical and hand clearing and use of herbicides. Private contractors paid by TVA perform the work.

To minimize negative ecological impacts in addition to reducing the number of complaints by property owners who have TVA transmission line easements that must be maintained and to promote vegetative management policies that may reduce costs and complaints over the long term, the following recommendations are offered.

1. TVA should make more effort to contact property owners whose land is to be cleared or re-cleared so that potential problems may be worked out prior to clearing or re-clearing. TVA should ensure that contractors follow appropriate policies and have information about land to be cleared or re-cleared that is adequate to prevent violations of state and federal laws. TVA should take greater responsibility for ensuring that relationships with property owners reflect TVA’s intent to be cooperative and responsive.

2. Whenever possible, TVA should create or participate in innovative approaches and partnerships with other units of government or private agencies or property owners who have an interest in natural methods for maintaining vegetative cover for purposes such as recreation and wildlife conservation. For example, a state park with transmission lines may agree to maintain the vegetative cover to provide natural habitat, rather than having TVA clear the land on a regular basis.

3. TVA has done significant work to research and compile user-friendly information about landscaping rights-of-way with natural shrubs. Once installed, this sustainable natural cover could dramatically reduce the cost of future maintenance of transmission line rights-of-way. In addition, this method could reduce complaints and instances of environmental law violations. TVA should institute a pilot project in the use of natural cover with the goal of analyzing its long-term benefits for the purpose of establishing reasonable goals in the amount of right-of-way planted in sustainable cover.

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Policy Recommendations on Campgrounds Issues

Approved by the Regional Resource Stewardship Council on August 29, 2001

In response to questions raised at the May 18, 2001, meeting of the TVA Regional Resource Stewardship Council; and following a review of information provided by TVA’s Resource Stewardship staff and TVA’s procedural guidelines for commercial campground operations on TVA managed public lands, the Public Lands Subcommittee offers the following findings and affirms the TVA recommendations related to (a) seasonal rental of commercially provided campsites and (b) construction/installation of porches, decks, roofs, and other appurtenant structures by campsite renters.

• In allowing commercial campground operations on public lands under its administration, TVA constantly strives to meet the demands of its commercial operators, and their recreational clients, while also considering its own operational needs, and the needs and interests of the broader public. This requires allowing operators adequate flexibility for sustaining a reasonable profit stream; and, at the same time, providing sufficient oversight to ensure the availability of public camping opportunities.

• There are currently 46 commercial campgrounds operating on TVA fee-retained lands. These areas provide 2,960 campsites. Of this total, 1,927 (65%) are currently offered for seasonal rental. Of the seasonally rented sites, only 624 (32%) have been modified to included porches, decks, roofs, and other appurtenant structures. This represents 21% of the 2,960 commercial campsites currently available. The subcommittee also recognizes that 90% of the modified sites occur at three campgrounds on Guntersville Reservoir, and 6 campgrounds on South Holston, Douglas, Cherokee, and Norris Reservoirs.

• TVA’s current policy of restricting the percentage of campsites made available by commercial operators for seasonal rental (75%) is reasonable and necessary for ensuring public availability of camping opportunities. Similarly, prohibitions on the construction by campsite renters of decks, porches, roofs, and other types of appurtenant structures, in association with seasonally rented sites, is also necessary to avoid the public perception that campsites are being made available on a longer than seasonal (i.e., 8 months), or permanent, basis. Furthermore, we are in complete agreement with TVA’s policy for reducing flood damage risks to private property by prohibiting the placement or construction of decks, porches, roofs, and other types of appurtenant structures below maximum shoreline contour (MSC) elevations.

• The requirement that prior to initiating, or allowing, any site modifications, an operator must first obtain written approval from TVA is entirely warranted and provides a reasonable opportunity for TVA to review any proposed activities that might be inconsistent with the aforementioned operational guidelines.

• Regarding the complaints submitted by renters of seasonal campsites at Fall Creek Campground (Cherokee Reservoir) related to the TVA-imposed deadline of August 15, 2001, for removal of previously constructed decks, porches, roofs, and other appurtenant structures, etc., it is our determination that this deadline was arbitrarily determined, and lacking in any real justification. Furthermore, if enforced, the imposition of such a deadline may have resulted in some degree of stress and hardship for the seasonal renters.

In consideration of the findings presented above, it is the recommendation of this subcommittee that:
• TVA continue operating under its existing procedural guidelines pertaining to the development and operation of commercial campgrounds on TVA-retained lands. However, in applying these guidelines, TVA should remain sufficiently flexible to ensure that both its commercial campground operators, and their rental clients, are afforded ample opportunity to bring themselves into compliance.
• This recommendation is particularly applicable for those situations where commercial operators have allowed the construction of porches, decks, roofs, and other appurtenant structures in association with seasonally rented campsites.
• TVA should negotiate with the individual campground operators where these structures occur to ensure that such structures are removed as attrition / turnover occurs. If TVA and the commercial operator(s) agree that porches, decks, roofs, or other types of appurtenant structures will be allowed, then TVA should provide guidance in what types of structures it will approve.
• The porches, decks, roofs, and other appurtenant structures now in place should be allowed to stay until such time as the seasonal renters no long use that particular site or if a structure becomes a hazard due to poor design or lack of maintenance.
• Also, TVA should work with campground operators in revising existing leases, licenses, and easements to ensure that in the future, any and all such structures not removed by seasonable renters once they no longer wish to rent the campsite will be the property of the campground.

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