Reconnecting with the Past

NOVEMBER 9, 2020—An upcoming project to safely relocate coal ash around Gallatin Fossil Plant is also offering a rare opportunity to help reconnect family members to loved ones who are buried in cemeteries around the fossil plant property.

The planned $640-million project will move 50 years of coal ash from the fossil plant’s current impoundments and into an expanded, 100-acre state-of-the-art lined dry landfill onsite farther away from the Cumberland River. The proposal is a safe, long-term solution that will benefit the environment and local community by eliminating the need for heavy truck traffic on public roads. But the project will require the relocation of six cemeteries dating from 1810-1950. Most of those cemeteries are currently not easily accessible for families due to ongoing projects and plant operations at the site.

For the past year, TVA has been conducting research and outreach to identify families with connections to these cemeteries. Project Manager Michael Clemmons is heading the project with the help of TVA archaeologist Steve Cole, pictured above. Together, they are following the historic TVA Cemetery Relocation Program guidelines.

“We’re taking the time to make sure we’re being respectful and meticulous, and doing this work the right way to honor those buried here,” said Clemmons.

TVA entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Tennessee State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), and may proceed under the National Historic Preservation Act Section 106.

Since 1933, TVA has relocated the remains of about 21,000 graves during the creation of its reservoirs.

At Gallatin, the state-approved process requires each of the approximately 175 graves to be marked, mapped and numbered. By properly documenting and mapping each grave location, Cole says the process will help clearly identify the remains for the benefit of the public.

Clemmons believes relocating the graves to a new burial ground will also alleviate the limited public access at the plant. While TVA granted access rights to family members when the property was purchased in the 1950s, safe entry now requires escorted visits because the cemeteries are located inside the operational boundaries of the reservation.

TVA plans to relocate the cemeteries to a local perpetual care facility near the Gallatin Fossil Plant, with the exact site to be determined later. 

“Descendants will be able to visit the grave sites as the area reserved for the Gallatin cemeteries is easily accessible by the public and designed cemetery markers will tell the story of the Odom’s Bend community,” said Cole.

TVA is hosting a virtual interactive open house with live Q&A on Thursday, Nov. 19 to highlight our mission of service in the Tennessee Valley and to provide information on the relocation plans. TVA’s subject matter experts will be available to answer questions in real-time during the event.

The virtual open house will be available through this link: beginning at 5 p.m. CST on Thursday, Nov. 19.