Davy Crockett turns over...again

Davy Crockett turns over...again

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is currently reviewing the first public land-development project that would challenge the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) new conservation-based public land-use policy, reports the Wildlife Management Institute.

The proposed "Campbell County Lighthouse Lodge and Convention Center" includes plans for the construction of a 77-room lodge and restaurant complex to be built on a ridgetop adjacent to Norris Dam and the 4,038-acre Norris Dam State Park. The development site lies on a parcel of land that TVA transferred, by permanent easement, to the state of Tennessee for public recreation. The parcel has been managed by the state under the Norris Dam State Park Master Plan, which does not currently include any provision for "capital improvement."

Although TDEC could approve the plan if the proposed development is deemed an "improved utilization of state lands and facilities in the public interest" (1976 Lease and License Arrangement Statute), TVA must endorse the project before any development could proceed.

Recently, the TVA re-invented its land-use policy after receiving more than 5,000 public comments in opposition to any residential or retail development of public lands acquired by eminent domain (see the December 2006 issue of this news bulletin). Part of the new policy restricts development of TVA land for retail or commercial purposes.

According to TVA spokesperson Barbara Martocci, TVA will review the development proposal only after TDEC has approved it. TDEC currently is accepting public comments following a June 26 public hearing on the proposal.

Local conservation organizations have opposed the development proposal on the grounds that it would destroy wildlife habitat and restrict public recreation. In a letter written to the Campbell County Commission, a grassroots conservation group, the Friends of Norris Dam State Park, contended that developing state public lands contradicts the State Parks Act of 1937, which states that "every park shall be preserved in its natural condition-and that all improvements shall be of such character as not to harm its inherent recreational values."

Additional concerns about the development have led many to fear that projects such as the Campbell County Lighthouse Lodge proposal are setting a dangerous precedent for land management and use of the nation's dwindling public lands.

In response to such concerns, TVA adjusted its land-use policy to restrict development of public land obtained by eminent domain, according to Dr. James Byford, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences at the University of Tennessee at Martin: "This issue [building a hotel complex in Norris Dam State Park] will be a test of TVA's new policy of no commercial establishment on public land. A great many people are glad the new policy went into effect before this proposal became an issue." (mcd)

July 08, 2007