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Tennessee Valley Authority Reclamation Project

Tennessee's Largest Eminent Domain Takeover


Tennessee Valley Authority Reclamation Project

Nickajack Dam

Photo Credit: TVA
The largest Tennessee "eminent domain" takeover actually began in the late 1930's and lasted close to forty years; it was the TVA Reclamation Project, which ended up acquiring more than a million acres that encompassed a seven state region and that, of course, included Tennessee.

Close to 50,000 folks were displaced and several towns completely flooded. By the time all was said and done the Tennessee River and its tributaries ended up with close to 25 dams in place and the entire TVA Reclamation Project that totaled nearly 70 dams.

One of the most interesting and well documented stories about the TVA Project is about one of the last dams it built, the Tellico Dam, which is filled with enough sad tales of displacement, lost history, controversy, and profiteering to write a book about. The Tellico Dam Project not only flooded some of the best farmland in East Tennessee, but also a few of the most important Cherokee sites in Tennessee including Tanasi, the capitol of the Cherokee Nation (and origin of the state's name Tennessee) and Tuskegee, Sequoyah's birthplace home.

During this same time-frame the TVA also acquired another piece of property, by eminent domain that included over 150 miles of shoreline along the Tennessee River Gorge to create what is now known as Nickajack Lake.

As with the Tellico Dam controversy, this TVA project went awry when the TVA, in 2005, agreed to action off nearly 600 acres of this prime shoreline property. It eventually ended up being a part of a larger land swap with a land developer and created such a stir that the TVA ended up banning the sales of federal land for private residential development altogether.

While the Tennessee Valley Authority did manage to commandeer plenty of private Tennessee property through its eminent domain takeovers, the real irony of it all is that they also managed to pollute most of the air in the process.

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