Section 26a Jurisdiction

TVA's jurisdiction under Section 26a of the TVA Act applies to both the location of construction projects and the types of activities carried out. TVA’s jurisdiction is implemented through Section 26a regulations (18 C.F.R. part 1304) and the Shoreline Management Policy.

To view a summary of the Section 26a regulations click here. TVA also adopts guidance for consistent implementation of Section 26a regulations. This guidance can be viewed here. For additional assistance in interpreting the Section 26a regulations and guidance contact your local regional watershed office.

Locations covered under Section 26a.

TVA’s Section 26a jurisdiction applies at locations across, along or in the Tennessee River or any of its tributaries. A tributary is any watercourse whose contents, if not obstructed, diverted or consumed, will ultimately flow into the Tennessee River. TVA’s jurisdiction thus extends to the limits of the Tennessee River watershed. On TVA reservoirs that jurisdiction typically applies to the limits of the 500-year floodplain or to the upper limits of TVA flowage rights, whichever is higher. On-reservoir locations generally equates to the area where TVA has obtained land and/or land rights. On regulated river and stream reaches where TVA has not obtained land or land rights and on all unregulated tributary streams, that jurisdiction typically applies to the limits of the 100-year floodplain.

Types of construction projects that require Section 26a permits.

With regard to the range of construction and development activities along the shoreline, Section 26a regulation is limited to plans for the construction of obstructions affecting navigation, flood control or public lands. An obstruction is generally “any man-made physical condition that during its continuance after completion impounds, checks, hinders, restricts, retards, diverts or otherwise interferes with the movement of water or of objects on or in the water.” Whether an obstruction requires a permit depends, to some extent, on its location. Obstructions across, along or in the Tennessee River, TVA reservoirs and stream reaches downstream of TVA dams require a Section 26a permit. Obstructions across, along or in tributary reaches that are upstream of the influence of a TVA reservoir operations may not require a permit. Read more about the obstructions or activities that do not require a Section 26a permit below.

What types of construction projects do not require permits?

TVA has determined that certain obstructions because of their location, the nature of their construction, or both do not interfere with TVA’s operation or management of the reservoir system and therefore do not require a Section 26a permit. This has generally occurred across, along or in certain tributary stream reaches that are upstream of the control or influence of TVA’s reservoir system operations. You can read TVA’s rule regarding these locations and obstructions here. For more information about these locations and obstructions contact your local regional watershed office. Construction of these obstructions may still require other local, state, or federal permits.

Other activities across, along or in the Tennessee River are not considered obstructions and therefore do not require a TVA Section 26a permit if they are conducted on privately-owned land. These activities may still require local, state or federal permits. See the list of activities below.

Please note, however, that permission must be obtained from TVA before conducting any activities on TVA land. If you are planning an activity on TVA land, contact your local Regional Watershed Office first.

  • Removal of materials such as trees, tree stumps, brush or sand and gravel from a streambed is not construction of an obstruction unless the material removed is piled in or along the stream, river or reservoir in such a way as to create an obstruction.
  • Excavation (dredging) of a new channel or enlargement of an existing channel is not construction of an obstruction unless it involves blocking, restricting, or draining the old channel.
  • Excavation of a trench for a submarine sewer, telephone or other utility line, in which the trench is backfilled to the original contour and is located outside the area of a marked navigation channel, does not create an obstruction. (TVA approval is required for all utilities buried in or under marked navigation channels.)
  • Construction on, over or along temporary, intermittent, seasonal or wet-weather streams or drainages does not constitute an obstruction.
  • Discharges into the Tennessee River System are not obstructions unless they are made through or by an obstruction (outfall pipe, etc.) subject to TVA approval.
  • Replacement of culverts of same or greater hydraulic capacity, creating no new or additional obstruction and within the same highway alignment are not new obstructions and are to be considered maintenance activity.
  • Replacement of bridges of the same or greater hydraulic capacity, creating no new or additional obstruction and within the same highway alignment are not new obstructions and are to be considered maintenance activity.
  • Directional boring under streams or rivers for the installation of utilities or pipelines where no new obstructions are permanently placed within the floodplain are not considered obstructions.