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TVA River Neighbors
november 2005


Protecting your reservoirs and shorelines:
TVA Watershed Teams (part 2)

This is the second in a series of articles highlighting the work of TVA Watershed Teams. These teams perform a variety of functions, which include building partnerships for water-quality improvement, issuing permits for boat docks and other shoreline-construction activities, and managing recreation and natural and cultural resources on public reservoir lands. Locate your nearest Watershed Team.

Careful review of proposed land actions preserves public benefits

image of tva employee chellye campbellAs a Land Use Representative on TVA’s Pickwick-Wheeler Watershed Team, Chellye Campbell focuses on “land actions,” which means handling requests for permission to use TVA-managed public land for a particular purpose or, in some cases, conducting a transfer of property. Some of these land actions are relatively simple, but others can be quite complicated and require approval by the TVA Board of Directors.

A few examples illustrate the range of land actions handled by TVA Land Use Representatives:

  • The owners of an industrial plant want an easement to cross TVA-managed land in order to route water intake and discharge pipes.
  • An agricultural license is requested to allow the cutting of hay on TVA-managed property.
  • A developer makes a request to exchange private land for public land in order to construct a lakeshore resort.
  • A company installing a gas pipeline requests permission to temporarily place construction equipment on TVA-managed land.

The level of environmental and programmatic review varies significantly depending on the nature and scope of the proposed action, but each request is reviewed carefully. Last year, TVA Land Use Representatives handled about 300 requests for use of TVA-managed property across the Tennessee Valley.

Part of Campbell’s job is to take the pulse of stakeholders when it comes to their opinions on a given land action: “We hold public meetings which are built around the idea of two-way communication. We try to answer the questions citizens pose to us, and we also listen very carefully to what they say. Public review helps to ensure that all potential impacts are identified. It helps us make durable decisions — decisions that are in the best interest of the affected stakeholders in both the short and long term.”

When Campbell reviews a land action request, she is required to adhere to state and federal law and is charged with balancing the issues from the perspective of both the applicant and of the general public. “In the end, it really boils down to the fact that the resource in question is public land,” she notes. “There’s only so much of it to go around. Public land is a limited resource, so we have to be very careful about how we use it.”

She feels a personal responsibility to safeguard the shorelines under her purview — roughly, the area between Pickwick and Wheeler dams. “You spend enough time out on the water so that you really know the reservoir,” she explains. “You get to where you can spot erosion, permit violations, and other problems right away. By the same token, you get a lot of satisfaction from seeing a project done the right way.

“There’s nothing better than knowing that you addressed all the issues, stayed on schedule, and that in the end all the issues were resolved. What we really like to see is a ‘win-win’ situation, where the outcome benefits the applicant and the public.”

Early in her career, Campbell had to come to grips with the fact that she was not going to be able to please all of the people all of the time, but she works hard to balance the interests of all stakeholders. She finds satisfaction in being able to get people with differing views involved in the review process, especially when the proposed land action is controversial. “Our challenge is to make sure everyone affected is aware of the competing demands on public lands and to try to reach a consensus on conflicting requests. Some people are resistant at first, and then they hear other perspectives that help them understand the complexity of the situation. They develop a respect for the process and gradually grow to see beyond their own personal interests to what benefits everyone. That’s really what we’re all working toward.”

Proposed Land Use and Section 26a Actions
Public input is an important part of TVA’s review process for considering changes to the use of the public lands that it manages. Use the link above to see a list of land actions currently open for public comment.

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