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602 S. Gay Street
Knoxville, TN 37902
In the April 19th edition of Metro Pulse, I read with some interest about the tribulations of Mr. Larry Silverstein and his followers affected by TVA’s right-of-way tree-cutting. [“Speaking for the Trees” by Cari Wade Gervin] Forty-five years ago my family and neighbors in Vonore, Tenn. were forced off our land by TVA in order to build the Tellico Dam and create Tellico Lake. The construction of this dam and the subsequent lake destroyed over 14,000 acres of beautiful rolling hills, fertile farmland, several thousand acres of forest, and the Little Tennessee River. TVA at that time was very powerful and wielded the right of eminent domain like a hammer, with little regard for people’s rights or the good of the environment. Hundreds of people, some whose families had lived in the area for generations, were uprooted and their land taken. There was no bargaining or haggling over price, take what TVA offered, or federal marshals moved you out by force. None of the former landowners were allowed to keep land adjoining the lake, however much of the acreage wound up in developer’s hands years later to be sold as expensive lakefront properties.
Unlike other TVA dams built in earlier decades, Tellico Dam accomplished none of the goals for which TVA was chartered. Rural electrification had been completed, and flood control and navigation were not applicable to the Little Tennessee River. This was simply TVA flexing its federal political muscle and imposing its will on private property owners.
My grandfather and father, along with many of the affected land owners, organized to fight TVA over the forced sale of their property and the construction of the dam. Appeals to people in the surrounding counties for help and support were met with ridicule and statements to the effect that we were standing in the way of progress. Few stood up and spoke for us or helped in our fight with TVA for our land and all the trees and resources lost and covered with water. TVA sold everyone in the surrounding areas the idea that the benefits were far more important than the loss of our homes and farms, and the destruction of thousands of acres of land.
I do not want to see electrical power interrupted in my home, workplace, or local businesses due to a tree shorting out a high-voltage power line. Many of us experienced that unpleasant situation last year during the spring storms. So it is with little sympathy and some satisfaction that I can now tell Mr. Silverstein and his followers in the Knox County area to stop whining and wringing their hands over TVA’s tree-cutting policies and “suck it up, get over it, and move on” for the overall good of the surrounding area. At least you are not losing your home.