By The Associated Press
JACKSON, Tenn. — Campers along the Tennessee River have formed a group called Shoreline Alliance to fight regulations that the Tennessee Valley Authority says it plans to begin enforcing next year across a seven-state region.
David Merritt, who spearheaded the group, told The Jackson Sun that the TVA hasn’t enforced regulations against roofs and other structures at campgrounds in several years. He says the group has hired an attorney from Memphis and will talk to Tennessee congressmen at the end of the month to see if anything can be done to stop TVA’s plan.
“Some of the people who are at the campsites have been there for over 20 years, and the TVA has not told them until now to tear down their structures,” he said. “I’m not sure that does not nullify the TVA’s ability to enforce this law now.”
TVA officials have said they plan to enforce the old regulations that forbid structures from being built on camping spots in addition to rolling out restructured fees for shoreline marinas. The fees to be applied in 2013 will affect about 450 riverbank businesses and properties on 46 reservoirs owned by the TVA, which is a federal government utility.
TVA manager James Adams says the regulations assure equality for everyone who wants to use the TVA shorelines. He said a structure implies ownership and could discourage others from enjoying the shoreline.
“I enjoy the river, and I understand the connection to it,” Adams said, “but we are trying to manage this for everybody’s benefit and to prevent residential-type use or use as a second home.”
Buddy Thomas, who has a recreational vehicle parked at the Perryville Marina near Parsons, says the regulations could be the end of “the best little oar house on the river.” Along with his RV, Parsons has a tin roof structure and a covered porch decorated with fishing equipment and a latticework of oars.
You know, I always wanted a place like this, some little retreat on the water, but I never thought I would be able to afford it,” he said. “When I came here to the Perryville Marina and found out that you could sign annual, yearlong leases and have your own little setup, I found out I could afford to live the dream.”
Adams says long-term leases will still be available after regulation enforcement begins, but roofs, decks and other structures won’t be allowed and campers will have to leave for at least two weeks of the year.
He suggested that campers wanting structures look at private campgrounds.
“That would be a different experience than what we are trying to give at (our) locations,” he said.