Locally here in East Tennessee lately there have been discussions between Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regarding the safety of the power plants on the upper Tennessee River and the plants ability to handle what is being called a “Probable Maximum Flood”. The main concern is that the models for containing and handling flood waters over the last 10+ years have been found to be in error. The new model, along with recent events of flooding and the Tsunami in Japan have highlighted a need to take additional steps to secure key operating elements of the Watts Bar and Sequoia nuclear plants as well as portions surrounding the dams at Cherokee, Ft. Loudon and Tellico. While waters “overtopping” any of these dams are unlikely, the NRC will require that plans and contingencies be developed and put in place to deal with such an occurrence.
But the discussion got me thinking about the effect that these changes may have on the shoreline, and the resulting property around the lake. Currently the shoreline management plan for a large portion of Watts Bar Lake controls (owns) any land below the 750 ft elevation contour. The restrictions also run vertically from this point. If you have lakefront property, you are free to build or make property improvements to this 750 ft contour and that includes the vertical space. For instance, if your homes foundation were just above the 750’ line and you extended your deck out beyond the vertical line of the 750 contour you would be in violation.
Having established that the 750 line has been used for years as the stopping point by land owners around the lake; suppose for a minute that as part of the dam improvement and safety upgrade requirements TVA initiates a higher contour line for the lake? While chances are unlikely that this will ever occur, it could be a necessary part of the plan if the NRC determines that other measures still don’t meet the standards they have set. Faced with the decision to act on raising the required flood capacity or closing a nuclear power plant I think the decision would not take long for them to make.
The impact of such an eventuality would be interesting to say the least. Even a minimal raising of the lake boundaries, say 2 feet would have a significant impact on the entire region. How would TVA handle the acquisition of the property? Through the use of eminent domain to condemning the property and then offering the owners a fraction of what the land could be worth? And what about the costs; do we as the tax payers (TVA is a government entity) and also as users of the power get to pay for the property we would be forced to sell? And how will they handle the potential of structures that were above the line now being below the line? Will they simply allow them to remain and let the owner deal with the subsequent damage or destruction of the property in the event of a forced impoundment to the contour level? Will flood insurance rate for property owners go up do to the change?
Again, I do not see this as an issue but stranger things have happened. It is of course the Federal Government we are talking about… Just a thought.