NORRIS, Tenn. – One of East Tennessee’s most iconic energy sources, and a popular tourist and recreation destination, is officially now a protected American historic resource.
The National Park Service has added majestic Norris Dam, which extends 1,860 feet across the Clinch River in East Tennessee, to the National Register of Historic Places.
U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann presented TVA Historian Pat Ezzell the plaque that will be prominently displayed at Norris Dam. Rep. Fleischmann bestowed the plaque at a July 28 dinner that celebrated the 80th anniversary of initial operation of TVA’s first hydro project.
Norris Dam is the first TVA dam to receive recognition on the National Registry. It and the nearby town of Norris both are named for George Norris, the Nebraska senator who authored the TVA Act. He also is known as the father of the Tennessee Valley Authority.
“My great-grandfather and my family are honored to have this magnificent structure bear his name,” said Dr. David Norris Rath, great-grandson of Sen. Norris. “It is a wonderful tribute to the work he did to bring TVA to the region.”
Local and state elected officials that included Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, and a granddaughter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, also spoke at the dinner in the dam’s historic powerhouse.
"My grandfather signed the TVA Act to create a major component of the great social experiment that was the New Deal,” said Laura Delano Roosevelt. “Eighty years later, TVA is still successfully fulfilling its multi-faceted mission of energy production and rural electrification, environmental stewardship and economic development. Norris Dam is a magnificent physical reminder of this mission, and of the many ways in which TVA has contributed to a better quality of life for people living in the seven states of the Tennessee Valley."
Just months after the start of his presidency in the midst of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt in 1933 signed the TVA Act to create the nation’s largest public power electric utility “clothed with the power of government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise.”
The original objective of TVA – to make life better for the people of the Tennessee Valley – remains the federal corporation’s goal.
Norris Dam was TVA’s flagship project and the first in a series of dams that harnessed the wild waters of the Tennessee River system to control floods and provide inexpensive electric power. Electric power from Norris Dam and other hydroelectric facilities is today one of TVA’s clean energy sources that also includes nuclear, natural gas, wind and solar facilities.
To celebrate the dam’s 80th anniversary milestone, TVA hosted a free public celebration at Norris Dam July 29 and 30. Activities at the foot of the dam featured tours of the powerhouse, family activities, music and food.
This year also marks the 80th anniversary of the “Unified Plan of the Development of the Tennessee River,” the document that outlined TVA’s integrated resource management approach to providing flood control, navigation and affordable electricity to the people of the Valley.
Two TVA dams in Alabama – Wheeler Dam and Guntersville Dam – are currently being reviewed by the National Park Service for possible inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. Other TVA-built dams are being reviewed by their respective states’ Keeper of the National Register for final decisions on whether they will be granted National Register status.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power distributors serving more than 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA receives no taxpayer funding, deriving virtually all of its revenues from sales of electricity. In addition to operating and investing its revenues in its electric system, TVA provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and assists local power companies and state and local governments with economic development and job creation.