Federal judge rejects challenge to TVA taking Meigs County land for transmission line to power center [document]

Federal judge rejects challenge to TVA taking Meigs County land for transmission line to power center [document]

January 11th, 2019 by Dave Flessner in Breaking News

Workers control TVA operations from the power control center in downtown Chattanooga. / Staff file photo by Doug Strickland

Updated at 7:04 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019.

A federal judge has rejected a challenge to the Tennessee Valley Authority's plans to erect a transmission line through farmland in south Meigs County to help supply power for a new $300 million load control center.

U.S. District Court Judge Harry "Sandy" Mattice Friday rejected an appeal to TVA's eminent domain action against four landowners for the proposed power line.

Document: Read the judge's opinion

Rejected challenge to TVA taking Meigs County land

Greg Vital, president and CEO of Morning Pointe Senior Living and owner of hundreds of acres of land near Georgetown, Tennessee, asked the court in November to block TVA's request to enter his property to scope out plans for the transmission line. Vital claimed TVA was exercising its power to take property "carelessly and without restraint" and called TVA's plans "vague" with "no defining scope."

But Mattice ruled that TVA was within its legal right in its order of possession issued to Vital to enter his property in preparation for seeking a right-of-way for the power line route.

"Mr. Vital's consternation with what is transpiring in this action is understandable and very familiar to this court," Mattice said in a 7-page opinion issued today. "The whole idea of federal eminent domain may seem somehow to run counter to an incredibly powerful American value, one enshrined in the United States Constitution – the sanctity of private property. Nevertheless, as American law has evolved since the founding, federal eminent domain has become a settled, if not routine (and certainly not popular), feature of American life."

TVA is seeking to extend a 160,000-kilovolt transmission line through Vital's property, and that of three other landowners in southern Meigs County, to serve a new power control center TVA is planning to build as part of its "Grid 2023" program over the next four years.

TVA bought 167 acres near Gunstocker Creek in southern Meigs County last year to build the new systems operations center to replace its existing control center located beneath TVA's Missionary Ridge building in the Chattanooga office Complex downtown. The new facility, which TVA hopes to have in full operations within four years, is part of one of TVA's biggest upgrades of its power grid in the utility's 85-year history.

Vital said last year he understands the need for TVA's focus on power reliability, but he questions why TVA didn't do more to prepare for infrastructure needs or talk with neighboring residents before launching its plans.

"We are disappointed in the court's ruling and currently reviewing it for next steps ," Vital said in a statement today.

TVA spokesman Scott Fiedler said the decision "will allow us to move forward to work with property owners as we complete our initial surveys and environmental review of the proposed power line."

Fiedler said TVA will prepare a draft Environmental Assessment that will be available for public comment by spring before any construction of the planned $26 million transmission line begins.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340