Our Lakes are for Everyone – Not Just a Few
TVA’s mission of service began 83 years ago when we tamed the Tennessee River System and brought electricity to one of the poorest regions of the country. Today, through a series of 49 dams and reservoirs, TVA provides energy, environmental stewardship and economic development for the people of the Tennessee Valley.
Engraved on the walls of each of the dams is the reminder that the system of dams and reservoirs was “Built for the People of the United States.” TVA manages this valuable resource for the more than 9 million people of the Tennessee Valley. TVA built dams on the Tennessee River to tame its floods, produce electricity and use its waters for navigation. TVA also manages the river to supply water to cities and industries, to protect the Valley’s natural resources, and to support recreation that is enjoyed by millions of people every year.
There has been much discussion lately on TVA’s recommendation to apply a sunset period for all non-navigable floating houses on the reservoirs over the next 20 years. It is important to remember that floating houses moored on TVA’s reservoirs take for private use this public resource. They pose navigation and safety risks, and they degrade water quality.
Like national and state parks, which prohibit private residential use of public resources, the public owns the land and water we manage. Despite being prohibited on TVA’s reservoirs since 1978, the number of floating houses has increased. Without action, these types of structures will continue to proliferate.
Protecting public lands and waterways takes partnerships and public engagement. We sought public involvement as we conducted the environmental study on the impacts of floating houses on the safety and quality of the water and shoreline of the reservoirs. We worked with many stakeholders and the public over the past two years, providing numerous opportunities for the public to provide comments.
What we heard was a range of views. Many people thought TVA should require their immediate removal. Others, primarily owners, urged TVA to let existing floating houses stay on the reservoirs if they comply with safety and water quality standards.
We listened to and considered all comments. The policy regarding floating houses requires a difficult decision and one that is consistent with our mission of stewardship as outlined in the TVA Act. We believe we are proposing the best path forward to being good stewards of public lands while providing a reasonable solution to the existing circumstances. This recommendation is a compromise that recognizes the investment floating house owners have made while acting to secure the public use of the Tennessee River.