Ocoee River Whitewater Rafting Agreements

Polk County, Tennessee

On November 30, 2017, TVA released a draft environmental assessment (EA) of the proposed management agreement with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the State of Tennessee (State) to establish partner responsibilities for recreational management along the Ocoee River in Polk County, Tennessee.

The draft EA is available for public review and comment until January 5, 2018. TVA is hosting an informational open house at Cleveland State Community College in Cleveland, Tennessee on December 11, 2017, (5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.), for the public to learn more about the agreement and the environmental analysis and to provide input.    

The draft EA evaluates the potential environmental, economic, recreational, and other impacts of the proposed agreement. In June and July 2017, TVA invited and received input from the public on the scope of this review. This input was considered during the preparation of the draft EA. The USFS and the State are serving as cooperating agencies for the EA.

Proposed Agreements

Under the proposed agreement, TVA would provide water releases from Ocoee Dam No. 2 and No. 3 for a term of 15 years on the middle and upper sections of the Ocoee River beginning in 2019. Water releases would be based on a schedule framework similar to the water release agreements currently in place:

  • On the upper Ocoee, there would be no change to scheduled releases (see proposed release calendar for 2019).
  • On the middle Ocoee, the release schedule would be the same as the current schedule, except for the elimination of five weekdays in late September each year (see proposed release calendar for 2019). These five days were previously provided due to a historic TVA equipment maintenance schedule that is no longer needed.

Under the proposed management agreement, TVA would also grant a recreation easement to the State across three tracts of land (approximately 27.2 acres in total) and the USFS would continue to make two tracts (approximately 3.7 acres in total) available to the State to improve recreational river access.

In addition, the State would be responsible for a commercial-use permitting program and oversight of commercial rafting activities on the Ocoee River, both administered by Tennessee State Parks. The State’s responsibilities would include all general operational and maintenance activities necessary to facilitate commercial whitewater operations both within the TVA easement area and on the two tracts of National Forest System lands. The State would also be responsible for emergency first response, law enforcement, traffic management, and other appropriate tasks along the Ocoee River corridor.

The proposed water release agreement would not apply fees or restrict access to private boaters.

Background

The process established in 1983 to reimburse TVA for lost power generation from providing water releases for whitewater rafting on the middle section of the Ocoee River ends on March 16, 2019. Agreements and easements established in 1984 between TVA and the State to set the number of recreational release days on the Ocoee River, licensing of commercial rafting outfitters by TVA, and other arrangements also expire on December 31, 2018. A 2006 agreement relating to water releases on the upper section of the Ocoee River expires at the end of 2018 as well.

In early 2017, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the Ocoee River Recreation and Economic Development Fund Act, creating a fund and governing Board to support the proposed contract agreement. Commercial outfitters would pay a 10% licensing fee into the fund annually to reimburse the State for annual costs of its oversight and management through the term of the agreement. To support economic development in the region, the State is providing funds to offset TVA’s lost power generation from providing the recreational releases over the 15-year period.

Submitting Comments

TVA welcomes the public’s comments on the draft EA.  Comments must be received or postmarked no later than January 5, 2018.  They may be submitted by e-mail or mail to Matthew Higdon at the addresses below. Please note that any comments received, including names and addresses, will become part of the project administrative record and will be available for public inspection.

Contact

For more information contact the TVA Public Land Information Center by phone at (800) 882-5263, or by mail to the following address:

Tennessee Valley Authority
c/o Russell D. Smith
400 West Summit Hill Drive, WT 11D
Knoxville, TN 37902

PLIC@tva.gov

For more information about the environmental review, contact:

Matthew Higdon
mshigdon@tva.gov
(865) 632-8051
400 West Summit Hill Drive, WT 11D
Knoxville, TN 37902

Related Documents

Contact

For more information about the environmental review contact:

Matthew Higdon
NEPA Specialist

mshigdon@tva.gov
400 West Summit Hill Drive, WT 11D
Knoxville, TN 37902