December 30, 2015.
As the year ends, we can report great progress in efforts to preserve whitewater recreation on the Ocoee. Your support has been incredible since we began this effort in April. Outfitters, paddling clubs, County Commissions, Chambers of Commerce, the General Assembly (TN), paddlers, rafting customers and individuals have provided support for continuation of Ocoee whitewater. Over 6,000 letters have been sent to Congress!
We have had initial conversations with TVA that leave us hopeful for a successful resolution. But it’s not over ’til it’s over. The process will likely take two more years to complete in part because of the processes required by law to prepare for another long term solution. We will keep you advised. In the meantime, plan a visit to the Ocoee in 2016 to help spread the joy.
One of the many letters that underscore the value of the Ocoee to the region can be found below.
“I support Continued recreational whitewater releases on the Ocoee River in Polk County, TN because this venue has provided my family & many other families the ability to make lifelong memories that otherwise we couldn’t have made. And since there is an age requirement we weren’t able to take all of our children. I hope that once they reach that age the white waters are still being released so that we can take them. No amount of money or power saved can replace memories that are being made on the Ocoee River in Polk County Tennessee!”
You can read more of these letters at https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/114/x409 (Scroll down and they will appear.)
Thanks to you and the many TVA employees who support and help create these memories by providing releases on the Ocoee.
We wish you the best for the New Year. Happy New Year!
The Ocoee River Council
April 16, 2015
Thanks to the sponsors and the State legislature for recognizing the value of the Ocoee. Click on the headline above to read the resolution.
Why Ocoee River Whitewater Is at Risk
The Ocoee River is the nation’s most popular whitewater river with nearly 250,000 visits annually for rafting, canoeing, and kayaking. TVA initially insisted on $1.8 million annually to return water to riverbed for recreation after the current contract for water releases expires in March 2019. Outfitters would actually have to obtain a $9 million loan to secure water releases for five years, because TVA wants payment upfront. Interest and closing costs would drive the cost for water releases for five years to $11 million or more, which would have to be paid by the public through rafting fees. There is no entity capable of obtaining a loan for this amount and that would spell doom for Ocoee whitewater.
Reimbursing TVA for lost power when water is returned to the riverbed is not a viable strategy for the continuation of whitewater recreation on the Ocoee River. TVA wants these costs to be paid by the customers of outfitters, which account for about 200,000 visits currently. Participation would decline as demand is depressed by higher fees. Today, the Ocoee offers one of the most affordable, high quality whitewater experiences in the nation, which will be lost.
TVA normally diverts water around the riverbed through one of the nation’s only wooden flume lines used to generate hydroelectric power. Rafting and paddling would be eliminated by the fees required to pay TVA $1.8 million or more annually for lost power at the Ocoee No. 2 project. The State of Tennessee and the county also expect to collect fees for management. The combined fee burden will devastate rafting on the river and send the recreation experience for everyone down the tubes.
What is at stake
- Loss of the nation’s most popular whitewater river
- $43 million in economic benefits within 60 miles of the river
- 622 full-time-job equivalents
Over 5 million people have enjoyed whitewater recreation on the Ocoee since 1980. 2 million in the last 10 years. The Ocoee cannot be replaced as an asset to the state and region. This should not be a debate about fees, but about preserving this one of kind recreation experience.
Why TVA Wants $1.8 million annually to pay for water releases.
TVA insists that rafting customers of outfitters pay strict reimbursement for lost power to cover the costs of water releases. TVA is the only utility allowed to collect these kinds of fees, since projects licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are required to provide releases without reimbursement. For example, Progress Energy provides releases for 78 days annually on the Pigeon River in Cocke County, Tennessee.
How much power is lost?
Using TVA’s costs for releases, the cost for recreational releases is less than 1/50th of 1% of TVA’s annual revenues. The power benefits generated by the Ocoee No. 2 project are minor and not noticeable in TVA power rates. So, water releases for recreation for a relatively small portion of the overall annual power production at Ocoee No. 2 have no impact on power rates.
The Ocoee No. 2 project has a plate capacity of 23 megawatts or about 6/10,000 of the TVA system capacity. TVA admitted the benefits of the project were not noticeable in power rates in the 1979 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for reconstruction of the Ocoee No. 2 project. The Ocoee No. 3 project produces more power, but 34 days of releases there are still inconsequential to power rates.
Releases do not impact lake levels in Lake Blue Ridge, which is also revealed in the 1979 EIS.
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