Besides being responsible for the Tennessee River system, TVA also manages 293,000 acres of public lands in the Tennessee Valley. Much of this land is along the shorelines of reservoirs.
These shoreline lands are used for different purposes. Some are recreation areas where people can camp, fish, and launch their boats. Others, such as wetlands, are protected because they offer wildlife habitat, which means they provide food and shelter for animals. Others may be sold or leased so that people can build homes or businesses — like marinas or boat docks — on the shoreline.
For each reservoir, TVA draws up a plan that tells what each piece of land can be used for. It asks citizens what their opinions are about how the land should be used and considers those opinions when making decisions.
TVA also encourages citizens to become involved in cleaning up the lands around streams and reservoirs. TVA watershed teams organize cleanup events with groups of volunteers. In one year alone volunteers collected more than 300 tons of trash during these events!
The word “reclamation” comes from “reclaim”—meaning to take something back. So when we say “land reclamation” efforts, we’re talking about the process of taking back soil that has been harmed by erosion, older methods of mining, or other harmful practices.
TVA has been involved in land-reclamation efforts since 1933. Back then, much of the Tennessee Valley’s topsoil — the top 12 inches of soil that’s best for growing crops — had been eroded, or worn away, by old-fashioned ways of farming. TVA scientists worked with farmers to bring the land back to health with modern methods and potent fertilizers.
Over the years, TVA has joined with many other groups to fight erosion. It distributes tree seedlings and provides information to people who live along the shoreline so they know the best grasses, trees, and other plants to use on their property. TVA’s watershed teams also sponsor projects that educate students and community groups about conservation activities to protect stream banks and shorelines.
In this area of southeast Tennessee and northern Georgia, copper mining that began in the 1850s created an ugly area of useless land that had no plants or trees growing on it—some people said it looked like the moon. Years of hard work by TVA and others have reclaimed most of the Copper Basin.
In 1971, TVA started a test project to show that mountains could be returned to almost their original condition after coal had been mined there. Later, the project was used as a model to help make federal laws on surface mining. Nowadays, any coal mining company that wants to sell its coal for use in TVA’s power plants has to reclaim the land it mines, and TVA itself has reclaimed more than 1,000 acres of land left scarred by coal companies.
In 1981, TVA and other groups started reclaiming forgotten mica, kaolin, and feldspar mines in western North Carolina. Runoff from the mines was making the water in the area unsafe for humans or animals. TVA demonstrated new ways of cleaning up the land that have now been used all around the world.