Ocoee River Whitewater Rafting Agreements
Polk County, Tennessee
TVA has issued a final Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for an agreement with the State of Tennessee to provide recreational water releases from Ocoee Dam No. 2 and No. 3 for a term of 15 years on the middle and upper sections of the Ocoee River beginning in 2019. In the final EA, TVA identified Alternative C as its preferred alternative.
Water releases would be based on a schedule framework similar to the water release agreements currently in place:
- On the upper Ocoee, there would be no change to scheduled releases.
- On the middle Ocoee, the release schedule would be the same as the current schedule. Under limited circumstances (addressed in the final EA), TVA would consider requests for changes to the release schedule.
In addition, TVA would continue to release water for recreational use during the five weekdays in late September; these water releases would not be included in the agreement. Under the management agreement, TVA would also grant a recreation easement to the State across three tracts of land (approximately 27.2 acres in total) and the USFS would continue to make two tracts (approximately 3.7 acres in total) available to the State to improve recreational river access.
The State would be responsible for a commercial-use permitting program and oversight of commercial rafting activities on the Ocoee River, both administered by Tennessee State Parks. The State’s responsibilities would include all general operational and maintenance activities necessary to facilitate commercial whitewater operations both within the TVA easement area and on the two tracts of National Forest System lands. The State would also be responsible for emergency first response, law enforcement, traffic management, and other appropriate tasks along the Ocoee River corridor.
The process established in 1983 to reimburse TVA for lost power generation from providing water releases for whitewater rafting on the middle section of the Ocoee River ends on March 16, 2019. Agreements and easements established in 1984 between TVA and the State to set the number of recreational release days on the Ocoee River, licensing of commercial rafting outfitters by TVA, and other arrangements also expire on December 31, 2018. A 2006 agreement relating to water releases on the upper section of the Ocoee River expires at the end of 2018 as well.
In early 2017, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the Ocoee River Recreation and Economic Development Fund Act, creating a fund and governing Board to support the proposed contract agreement. Commercial outfitters would pay a 10% licensing fee into the fund annually to reimburse the State for annual costs of its oversight and management through the term of the agreement. To support economic development in the region, the State is providing funds to offset TVA’s lost power generation from providing the recreational releases over the 15-year period.
In November 2017, TVA released the draft EA of the proposed management agreement regarding recreational management along the Ocoee River. The public comment period closed on January 5, 2018. TVA considered the public’s input in finalizing the EA and addresses the comments received in the final EA.
For more information contact the TVA Public Land Information Center by phone at (800) 882-5263, or by mail to the following address:
Tennessee Valley Authority
c/o Russell D. Smith
400 West Summit Hill Drive, WT 11D
Knoxville, TN 37902
More information on this environmental review can be obtained from: