October 17, 2015
Urgent Message to All TSRA Members:
PLEASE HELP SAVE THE OCOEE!
We’re on the verge of losing recreational releases in the Ocoee River. The Ocoee is the world’s most popular Class III-IV whitewater river with over 250,000 annual visits for rafting, kayaking, open boating, and other paddlesports. But unless we take action now, recreational water releases will end in October 2018.
Why this is happening: A 1984 agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority ensures recreational water releases into the Ocoee’s natural river channel, but the agreement ends in 2019. Unless we act, the last scheduled release for recreation will occur in October 2018.
What you can do:
The ultimate solution requires an “Act of Congress”. Please go to the website WWW.SAVETHEOCOEE.ORG and do two things:
The TSRA Board has passed a resolution in support of this effort, along with many other paddling and conservation groups. But this expensive effort requires everyone’s help. One TSRA member gave a generous $500. Any amount is appreciated. Think about what you spend on a typical trip to the Ocoee and what you get from it.
More background: TVA is insisting on $1.8 million annually to return water to the riverbed for recreation after the current contract for water releases expires, an amount that represents something like an 800% increase in fees. This fee increase, combined with state and county management fees, would create an untenable fee burden for the rafting companies and would effectively end the recreational use of the Ocoee River. It is important to realize that private paddlers like most of us in TSRA would not have access to the Ocoee River without the presence of the rafting companies.
There is much at stake besides the loss of a great recreational resource. It is estimated that $43 million in economic benefits are generated within 60 miles of the river, and there are an estimated 622 full time job equivalents. Literally millions of people have enjoyed whitewater recreation on the Ocoee since 1980. 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. And in case you are wondering about the lost power, it accounts for only about 1/50th of 1%of TVA’s annual revenues, a negligible amount in TVA power rates.
Legislation is needed which would require the TVA board to designate the Ocoee No. 2 and Ocoee No. 3 projects as multiple-purpose projects to include whitewater recreation as a project purpose. This has been accomplished on many other projects in the nation, notably for eleven U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ projects throughout the eastern U.S. This strategy would preclude the TVA’s argument that they are obligated to receive strict reimbursement for lost power.