SARAH ROBINSON: Selling TVA would be terrible mistake


I have a personal history with TVA. In addition to being born in the first TVA city, my first job out of college in Washington, D.C. was in the TVA office of government relations, so I’m admittedly a little partial.

Understandably, most people know TVA as an energy producer, often criticized by environmentalists for what are sometimes legitimate reasons. But what many people fail to recognize is the enormous effort the organization dedicates to managing the Tennessee River system and lands that surround it.

Our national parks system and federally protected lands are among the greatest treasures we Americans have.

So, I was absolutely floored when I read in President Barack Obama’s 2014 budget that he was calling a strategic review to assess whether the federal government should sell TVA.

TVA owns and manages more than 293,000 acres across the seven states it serves, and 229,000 of those acres are available for recreation. On that land are more than 80 separate publicly accessible areas and 47 reservoirs.

Those lands and waters are hiked, biked, canoed, fished, camped and climbed. The Centennial Olympic whitewater slalom event in the 1996 games was held on the Ocoee River, which is managed by TVA.

I have no idea how many different parks I have visited over the years, but I can tell you the number is high.

I have camped on seashores in Maine and hiked in canyons in Utah. I have fished at Pickwick, backpacked in the Shenandoahs and snowshoed in Rocky Mountain National Park.

I have spent countless days away from street lights, television and traffic roasting marshmallows with my daughter and sleeping under a sky full of stars.

I have enjoyed watching the sun set over canyons, arches, lakes and oceans. Teaching her that there is more to life than money can buy.

The language included in the President’s budget said the measure is aimed at “reducing or eliminating the federal government’s role in programs such as TVA, which have achieved their original objectives and no longer require federal participation.”

President Obama has long claimed to be an environmentalist, dedicated to protecting our nation’s most valuable resources, and I have believed him.

So does the administration now believe the recreational land of the Tennessee Valley no longer requires federal protection? And if the measure plans to keep the parks and ditch the revenue generating company, how is that fiscally responsible?

I know that energy can be dirty business, but TVA is more than just power lines and hydro-plants.

For 80 years, it has served as the steward of the Tennessee Valley and our right to access the clean, rich natural resources, among which future generations will surely create many more great memories. I know I will.

Contact Sarah Robinson at (662) 678-1598 or sarah.robinson@journalinc.com.

Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal