Planners Seek Input
From Public For
2009 Impact Report
By TOM YANCEY
MORRISTOWN -- The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) held a public "open house" meeting regarding the Nolichucky and Douglas reservoirs on Thursday, seeking comments about uses of land in this region the giant utility owns.
Several TVA officials at the meeting commented on the beauty and uniqueness of the river in Greene County, based on field observations.
Kim Pilarski-Brand, a wetlands biologist in TVA's Heritage Resources, canoed much of the river to prepare for the meeting. She said a section of the Nolichucky between Kinser Park and Jones Bridge Road has "some of the nicest wetlands I've seen in our seven-state region."
A handful of Greene Countians traveled to Walters State Community College for the meeting, which was conducted by Chris Cooper, a TVA watershed specialist.
Cooper explained that TVA conducts land use planning on a 10-year cycle. "This is an opportunity to get public input," he said.
Two maps were displayed, one of the reservoir on the Nolichucky River known locally as Crockett Lake, and the other of Douglas Lake.
The utility owns 1,143 acres in 37 parcels along the Nolichucky, much of it in Greene County. Of those 37 parcels, 18 are uncommitted to any use, and largely remain in their natural state.
Cooper said TVA was seeking comments mostly on the uncommitted land, but would take comments regarding the future of any of its land.
The map of the Nolichucky indicated seven zones:
* Zone 1: Shoreland not owned by TVA. The largest area not owned by TVA is near Jones Bridge Road, on the south or east side of the river. This area extends from near the inlet of Camp Creek to near Bird Branch, about two miles. Other areas are near Earnest Bridge on both sides of the river.
* Zone 2: Land involved in "project operations." The only land on the map coded for Zone 2 was in the vicinity of the dam that creates Crockett Lake, immediately upstream from the Asheville Highway. That land includes a pavilion and river access area that was at one time used by the Cedar Creek Environmental Learning Center.
* Zone 3: Sensitive areas. Almost all the shorline between the dam and Jones Bridge Road is in this zone. TVA biologist Pilarski-Brand said the wetlands in this zone were created by "deposition of sand" coming from upstream, mostly in North Carolina, but have become good wildlife habitat. She said only 4 percent of Tennessee land that is considered to be "wetlands" is in East Tennessee, which makes this area even more unique.
Cooper, whose previous work as a fisheries biologist made him very familiar with the river, said the wetlands areas along Crockett Lake are narrower than they have been in recent years, probably because of the ongoing drought. But he said this part of the river remains beautiful, though few people ever see it.
* Zone 4: For natural resource conservation;
* Zone 5: For industrial sites. The only industrial site shown was an area near Birds Bridge where Vulcan Materials operates the former Nolichucky Sand Co.
* Zone 6: For developed recreation. Kinser Park, a 265-acre parcel of TVA land operated jointly by Greene County and Greeneville, carries that designation.
* Zone 7: For "former TVA land." No areas on the Nolichucky map carried that designation.
Maps Likely To Change
Cooper, the TVA's watershed specialist, said the maps were drafts, or "pre-drafts" that were "likely to change, subject to change, and will change" based on comments from the public and other factors. However, he said TVA currently has no plans to change any current use shown.
He said a "scoping report" based on Thursday's meeting and earlier work is planned for September. That will lead to preparation of a full environmental impact statement, scheduled for March 2009. The final version of the plan is expected to be completed in December 2009, Cooper said.
The entire process is governed by rule in the National Environmental Policy Act, he said.
Comments From Public
Jack Short, of Tusculum, one of the owners of Nolichuckey View Golf Course (formerly called River Trace), said he came to the meeting because TVA owns land next to the course's ninth fairway. "We would like to use that land as a driving range," he said.
Currently, the land, located between the dam and Kinser Park, is used to grow hay, he said. If the golf course could gain access to the land, Short said no structures would be planned, except for small safety baffles and tee boxes.
Short said the land was recently mowed for the first time this year.
One woman who asked that her name not be used said she came to the meeting to express concerns about periodic flooding from the river into the area drained by Camp Creek. The woman said this has not happened in several years because of the drought, but occurred regularly in the past, because of sand buildup in the river.
Wilhelmina Williams, of Chuckey, president of Friends of the Nolichucky River and also president of the Middle Nolichucky Watershed Alliance, said she came to learn more about TVA's holdings along the river.
Williams, who lives on the river near Earnest Bridge on land that has been in her family for generations, said she was surprised to learn how much land TVA owns, but pleased that the people she talked to seemed to appreciate it as much as she and her neighbors do.
Greeneville Alderman Sarah Webster said, "It's exciting to see the potential that they (TVA officials) see" for the river.
Inserts on the map showed TVA shoreline sections downstream from the dam, and Cooper said consideration is being given to providing river access points on some of that land, since so much of the shoreland is in private hands.
Excellent Bass Fishing
Cooper said the river below the dam offers excellent smallmouth bass fishing from the bank, and is also a prime location for watching birds and wildlife.
Webster and her husband, retired surgeon Thomas Webster, M.D., own a farm along the river downstream from Earnest Bridge.
Webster said she planned to make comments as an individual landowner to be included in TVA's planning process.
"We need to be certain that we have input from people in Greene County about about what they want to occur in Greene County," Webster said.
Where To Comment
Written comments can be sent to: Richard L. Toennisson, Tennessee Valley Authority, WT 11D-K, 400 West Summit Hill Drive, Knoxville TN 37902.
Online comments can be made at http://www.tva.gov/environment/reports/dnlp.
Telephone comments can be made, toll-free, at 888-882-7675.