TVA Seeks Public Comments on Proposed Ocoee River Whitewater Rafting Agreements

June 13, 2017

TVA is seeking public input on a proposed management agreement with the Ocoee River Outfitters Association, U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the State of Tennessee (State) that would establish partner responsibilities to provide recreational management along the Ocoee River in Polk County, Tennessee.

The process established in 1983 to reimburse TVA for lost power costs 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.

The Tennessee General Assembly recently passed the Ocoee Recreation Fund Act (ORFA), signed May 12 by the Governor, creating a fund to support the new 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.

Among the terms of the proposed management agreement, TVA would provide water releases for a term of 15 years on the middle and upper sections of the Ocoee River beginning in 2019. The ORFA also established funding to offset TVA’s lost power costs from providing water releases to create whitewater over this 15-year period. Water releases would be based on a schedule framework similar to the water release agreements currently in place. There would be no change to scheduled releases on the upper section of the Ocoee River. The release schedule would be the same on the middle section of the Ocoee River, except for the elimination of a few weekdays in late September each year.

Under the proposed management agreement, 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. TVA would also grant a 30-year recreation easement to the State across four tracts of land totaling approximately 27.2 acres. 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 two tracts of USFS property. In addition, the State would also be responsible for emergency first response, law enforcement, traffic management, and other appropriate tasks along the Ocoee River corridor.

TVA is conducting an Environmental Assessment to evaluate environmental, economic, recreational, and other impacts of the proposed agreement. The USFS and the State are serving as cooperating agencies for the environmental review.

A 30-day public comment period is scheduled to begin on June 13, 2017, to solicit public input on the scope these proposed actions and the potential impacts and management issues that should be addressed in the Environmental Assessment. Based on the public’s feedback, TVA may develop and consider other alternatives during the review process. Any comments received, including names and addresses, will become part of the administrative record and will be available for public inspection.

All written comments on this proposed action must be received on or before July 13, 2017. Written comments may be mailed to the address below or e-mailed to rdsmith@tva.gov. For additional information, please contact:

Russell D. Smith
Tennessee Valley Authority
400 W. Summit Hill Drive, WT-11
Knoxville, Tennessee 37902