Meigs County landowners claim TVA too vague, broad in condemnation action to take their land

Meigs County landowners claim TVA too vague, broad in condemnation action to take their land

December 31st, 2018 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Landowners in Meigs County contend TVA has been too vague about its plans for a new transmission line and too willing to tear up virgin forests to power its new system control center near Georgetown.

In a legal motion filed against TVA's attempt to gain access to their property, Meigs County landowners Greg Vital, John and Bridget Vantiegham and Cornerstone Farm have asked U.S. District Court Judge Sandy Mattice to reconsider his order to allow TVA temporary access on to their private property to determine where a new high-voltage transmission line needed might be sited to supply a $300 million power control center it plans to open in south Meigs County by 2023.

"TVA has given Mr. Vital four possible routes it could use to run power lines over his property," Chattanooga attorney Crews Townsend wrote in an 8-page motion challenging the way TVA is using its eminent domain rights. "Three of these run straight through virgin forest, which Mr. Vital uses for hiking, horseback riding, and other purposes. One option also runs through a field on which he grows crops and uses as a dove field during season. Mr. Vital has no idea what his present rights are or what the TVA will do to his property before a formal condemnation proceeding is filed."

TVA said it wants access to the properties to conduct surveys, ground tests and other engineering work needed to build towers and a 161,000-volt transmission line for about 4.25 miles on a 100-foot wide right-of-way where the new line would be built to carry power to the new system operations center and its 200-employee staff.

TVA bought 167 acres near Georgetown in the summer of 2017, but it only revealed its plans in August of 2018 for a new system operations center to replace the current site downtown in the TVA Chattanooga Office Complex. Most of the center's 240 employees will move to the new remote site near Gunstocker Creek off Highway 58 along Highway 60 once the facility is built and running by 2023.

TVA said it wants a more remote location for the nerve center of its power grid, where TVA controls and dispatches power across its seven-state region. TVA Transmission and Power Supply Vice President Aaron Melda said the Meigs County site was available and within easy driving distance for workers in the center now located in downtown Chattanooga.

Melda said the new secured facility is being built to help accommodate a new energy management system that will be supported by another $300 million expansion of the fiber optic lines TVA also is building along about 3,500 miles of TVA's 16,000 miles of transmission lines.

"We think this will be transformative and will provide us a platform for the future to position TVA to provide the most competitive and reliable power," Melda said.

Vital said he is is not opposed to TVA building a new power control center and implementing its "Grid 2023" upgrade for its transmission control and dispatch facilities. But Vital objects to TVA not preparing for infrastructure needs required for the new rural center or for not being more transparent or specific about its plans.

"TVA's failure to define its estate or interest creates uncertainty on the face of a very powerful order," Crews Townsend said.

TVA has yet to respond to the latest motion in the condemnation case, but previously TVA spokesman Scott Fielding said the new transmission line is needed to upgrade the reliability and security of TVA transmissions "and we work hard to be as transparent as possible and to minimize the impact on private property."

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


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