Property Disputes A Separate Issue
From Management, TVA Officials Say
By NELSON MORAIS
Three Tennessee Valley Authority officials on Thursday sought to clear up what they said are lingering misconceptions by some about a TVA land management plan for the Nolichucky reservoir that has generated controversy.
Chris Cooper, the plan's project manager; Susan Fuhr, Holston-Cherokee-Douglas Watershed Team manager; and Laura Smith, a communications official, met with a Greeneville Sun reporter. They made three general points:
* A preliminary land management plan TVA has proposed for the public utility's lands along the Douglas and Nolichucky reservoirs is a work-in-progress and "not a done deal," according to Fuhr and the others. In addition, the schedule for adopting the plan is somewhat flexible, as information is gathered and the process evolves, according to Cooper.
Cooper added, "We're going to look at every piece of information" from several sources, including the public and elected officials, before TVA decides on land management usage for the Douglas and Nolichucky reservoirs.
That usage could include public recreation, such as fishing, creating nature preserves, or preserving "cultural" sites of a historical nature, such as in the case that a graveyard was discovered.
* The development of a land-management plan for the Douglas and Nolichucky River reservoirs, the first one for these two areas, is a result of a directive by the public utility's board of directors in 2006 to update or create such plans for all TVA reservoirs.
* Disputes between property owners and TVA over land both sides claim to own is a separate issue apart from the land management plan being devised, but one which TVA is actively working to resolve on a case-by-case basis.
Cooper, who works out of the TVA office in Morristown and is project manager for three land management plans, including the Douglas-Nolichucky plan, said he is willing to meet in Greene County with anyone potentially affected by the local area plan, disputes property rights, or has other concerns or questions.
The Douglas-Nolichucky Reservoir Land Management Plan is part of "an ongoing, major process (involving) multiple plans throughout" TVA-owned land, Fuhr said.
Overall, TVA has completed a total of 14 10-year land plans to date, according to Cooper. Three of those plans are in the process of being updated, he said.
Cooper also said that TVA has received suggestions from the public for usage of TVA land from both property owners along the Nolichucky River, and others interested in the utilization of the public utility's lands for various activities.
"What we've been rolling out" in the form of a land management plan is a "pre-plan" that TVA officials came up with based on their knowledge of various factors at that time, Cooper said.
Besides the public, "We're also looking for input from federal, state, city and county officials," Cooper said, adding, "anybody -- from a Realtor to a developer to Joe Schmoe who doesn't live near a reservoir but uses it."
Usage possibilities are open-ended, he said, and could include ideas to aid industry and other economic development, he added.
Following an extended public comment period that ends at midnight on Tuesday, July 15, Copper said, "We'll review what we have and go through every comment," which he said will be a very time-consuming, lengthy process.
A 'Scoping' Report
Those comments will be part of a so-called "scoping" comments report that will be available to the public on TVA's Web site when completed, probably in September, Cooper said.
"It will list all comments we've received, and potential alternatives we're looking at," he said.
The TVA land management plan for the Nolichucky reservoir involves 37 parcels, and a total acreage of 1,143 acres. The largest parcel -- 265 acres -- is Kinser Park, and the smallest parcel is just under one acre, he said. "They vary a lot" in size, Cooper said.
About March 2009, there will be a public review "of any changes we made" to the pre-plan, Cooper said. Preferred plans and their alternatives will be presented. The plans will be presented at a public meeting similar to a June 12 one held in Morristown on the current pre-plan.
The proposed, probably-revised plans and proposed alternatives "will all be available for comment" at that time throughout a 45-day public comment period, Cooper said.
Finally, he said, "We'll present the preferred alternative that best balances competing interests" to the TVA board of directors, currently scheduled to take place in December 2009.
Public Comment Sought
"We really do need comments" from the public, Cooper said. He added, "There's stuff out there we don't know (that is needed for) decision-making."
He explained that TVA received a request from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) prior to development of the Nolichucky reservoir pre-plan currently the center of attention and controversy.
He said, however, that -- contrary to widespread rumors -- TWRA's "request doesn't influence the process any more than any stakeholder who lives on the reservoir, or uses the reservoir, the common individual."
TVA Property Deeds
In a "Fact Sheet" handed to the Sun reporter who interviewed the three TVA officials, TVA states that, "If any stakeholder would like to review maps and deeds of property in TVA's possession, they may do so at the Greene County Courthouse, or they may make an appointment by calling the TVA Watershed Team Office at (423) 585-2210."
The Fact Sheet also states that "in order to manage the land around its reservoirs, TVA develops land management plans which provide a method of identifying and evaluating the most suitable use of TVA's land."
Those interested in submitting land management comments or suggestions can do so by midnight, July 15, online at http://www.tva.gov/environment/reports/dnlp, by contacting Rick Toennisson at (865) 632-8517 or Chris Cooper at (423) 585-2138, or by leaving a comment on the toll-free line, 1-866-601-4612, or by sending comments to TVA, NEPA WT 11 D, 400 W. Summit Hill Dr., Knoxville, TN., 37902.