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

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

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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.

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