TRVA Addresses TVA Board of Directors

On November 17, 2011, the TRVA addressed a meeting of the TVA Board of Directors in Starkville, Mississippi.  In prepared comments, TRVA encouraged careful consideration of proposals that would transfer water out of the Tennessee River Basin.  The full text of the TRVA comments follows:

My name is Cline Jones, I am a resident of Athens, Alabama and the Executive Director of the Tennessee River Valley Association (TRVA), a non-profit public interest organization that has strongly supported and partnered with the Tennessee Valley Authority for nearly a half century.

The TRVA membership consists of towing companies, barge lines, port & terminal operators, municipalities, industrial water users, and concerned citizens from across the Valley region.

As an organization that represents a diverse group of Tennessee River users, the TRVA very much appreciates the opportunity to speak here today.

Members of the Board and Mr. Kilgore, according to a joint study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the TVA, the Tennessee River is the most intensively used river system in the country.  Approximately 97 percent of the water currently withdrawn from the river is returned to the system for use downstream, making our region one of the lowest overall water consumers in the United States.

Economies throughout the Tennessee Valley Region depend on the river system for low-cost power generation, municipal & industrial water supply, efficient waterborne transportation, recreation, tourism, environmental preservation, and jobs.  One hundred thirty-seven municipalities and fifty-eight industries in the Tennessee Valley rely on withdrawals of water from the Tennessee River System.  Water is also withdrawn for TVA power-plant cooling and for irrigation purposes.

In recent years, in excess of fifty million tons of commodities have been shipped annually via the Tennessee River.  One hundred-eighty ports and terminals on the Tennessee support industries that provide thousands of beneficial jobs for valley residents.

As the population of the southeast grows, municipalities and regional water councils from outside of the Tennessee River basin are desperately searching for a reliable source of municipal and industrial water supply to support their expected growth.  Increasingly, the Tennessee River is being targeted to accommodate those forecasted needs.

Recent proposals have called for large withdrawals of water from the Tennessee River that will result in interbasin transfers, the practice of pumping fresh water from one river basin to another.  One problem with such transfers is that once the water is used, it is discharged into the receiving basin rather than returned to the originating river basin.

In addition to the TVA 26a permitting process for water withdrawals from the Tennessee River, this Board has acknowledged the potentially adverse effects of interbasin transfers by adopting policies that require board approval of any interbasin transfers in excess of 1 million gallons per day.

For nearly eight decades, TVA has successfully managed the River System by balancing the needs of the many beneficiaries, including the nine million residents in the TVA Region that are dependent in many ways on the river system.  Large volumes of water transferred away from the Tennessee River basin will threaten that critical balance.

While the TRVA applauds this Board’s actions establishing the one million gallon per day threshold for board action, we encourage careful consideration of all applications and proposals that will result in interbasin transfers of water out of the Tennessee River basin.  Especially during low water and in drought years, such transfers could potentially result in devastating effects on water users and economies throughout the Tennessee Valley.  Thank you.