The Tennessee Valley Authority's Tellico Dam Project--Costs, Alternatives, and Benefits

EMD-77-58: Published: Oct 14, 1977. Publicly Released: Oct 14, 1977.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

The Tellico project is a 38,000 acre water resource and regional economic development project located on the Little Tennessee River. In January 1977 the courts halted construction of the project because it would destroy the snail darter, an endangered species of fish. As of February 1977, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) had obligated about $103 million on the project and estimated that $13 million to $19 million would be required to complete it.

If the reservoir is not created, some of the project costs could provide benefits for alternate uses of land, roads, and bridges. There were wide differences in estimates of expenditures necessary to provide benefits without project completion, with GAO estimating that $56.3 million could provide some benefits but that these would not be proportionate with costs. In weighing alternatives, proponents and opponents of the project agreed that even a modified dam and reservoir would endanger the snail darter. TVA claimed that it successfully transplanted over 700 snail darters to the Hiwassee River, but the Secretary of the Interior recommended steps to conserve the darter population in the Little Tennessee River. Potential alternate uses for the valley include development of agricultural, recreational, and archeological opportunities, none of which are supported by current cost benefit estimates. The most recent analysis was performed by TVA in 1968 and has not been updated.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: The Chairman of TVA should gather and provide to Congress detailed information on remaining costs and benefits of the Tellico project and its alternatives. Until current detailed cost and benefit information is made available, Congress should probihit by law any spending by TVA for work on the project that would further endanger the snail darter or not be necessary if the project were not completed or modified.


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Mar 12, 2018

Feb 22, 2018

Jan 26, 2018

Jan 19, 2018

Jan 4, 2018

Dec 22, 2017

Dec 13, 2017

Nov 15, 2017

Nov 2, 2017

Oct 30, 2017

Looking for more? Browse all our products here