Cultural artifacts found at proposed TVA power line route could force reroute of transmission line

Cultural artifacts found at proposed TVA power line route could force reroute of transmission line

March 5th, 2019 by Dave Flessner in Breaking News

Archaeologists hired by TVA have found what may be Native American artifacts on property in southern Meigs County where the utility wants to extend a power line to a new $300 million power control center TVA plans to build near Georgetown.

TVA spokesman Scott Fiedler said Monday that TVA discovered "potential cultural resource" artifacts along Gunstocker Creek during a site review last month. The finding could cause TVA to change part of the proposed 5.25-mile route for a new $26 million transmission line TVA wants to build to serve its new load control center, which is scheduled for completion by 2023.

"TVA is in the process of analyzing the data (from its Feb. 26 finding) and drafting the reports for the environmental assessment," Fiedler said. "Site surveys for the buildings (where TVA is planning its new power center) were completed last year and also will be included in our reports that are due to be released this spring."

Fiedler said depending upon the analysis of the site information, TVA may opt to reroute its transmission line to avoid disturbing the site where the artifacts were found on property owned by Greg Vital, co-founder of Morning Pointe Senior Living and the owner of hundreds of acres of farmland around the Georgetown area.

Vital and three other property owners have objected to the way TVA has tried to obtain access to their property to run high-voltage lines to the new power control center on 167 acres TVA quietly acquired in 2017 for the project.

"TVA confirmed to me that they found cultural resources that they deemed sensitive and sacred and potentially may require them to realign the route," Vital said Monday. "My feeling is that merely moving this line over 200 or 300 feet over to the east in the same proximity to where these cultural resources were identified without knowing what is there and with similar topography and jurisdiction doesn't solve the problem of the sacredness and the importance of the findings."

Vital, who last year unsuccessfully challenged TVA's use of eminent domain to access his property for the site surveys, said the case has now "moved from an eminent domain issue to a respect for Native American culture that we had always known was there.

"As a property owner, I have tried to honor and respect the heritage of this land for the past 10 years with Native American blessing on my property and the buffalo in this area," Vital said.

Vital said he is not necessarily opposed to TVA's power control center, but he has objected to the way TVA didn't work with landowners in the area or publicly disclose its plans prior to buying the land and laying out a power line route.

TVA wants to extend its transmission line to the the proposed Gunstocker Creek station, which would be located at the intersections of Highways 58 and 60 in Meigs County.

The line will carry power to a new 185,000-square-foot power control center TVA wants to build and start operating in the next four years as part of TVA's "Grid 2023" plan to improve its power grid reliability.

The new Georgetown facility would replace the current power control center in the basement of the Missionary Ridge building in the downtown Chattanooga Office Complex, which was built decades ago and TVA says needs to be upgraded and replaced.

The rural site of the new facility near Georgetown would be less vulnerable to terrorism and other threats to the electric grid, according to Aaron Melda, vice president of transmission operations and power supply for TVA.

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