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TVA offers advice, program to tackle post-flood erosion

Although the sun has finally re-emerged after days of relentless rainfall, the effects of the torrential downpours can still be seen across the county. The Tennessee Valley Authority has some answers for people looking to remedy post-flood erosion and litter problems left behind by high water.

As the water recedes from February’s record rainfall, some residents of the Tennessee Valley might be seeing more litter, tree debris and shoreline erosion than usual. Just like other Valley residents, the TVA is busy assessing the after-effects of the storms and the fast-moving water.

“Flooding has littered the shoreline with trash, pieces of wood, branches and things brought up from the bottom of the lake,” said Bucky Edmondson, TVA Natural Resources director. “There’s also visible erosion in some places. Soil erosion is a naturally-occurring process, but fluctuating water levels will speed it up. We’re already getting calls on what steps should be taken by property owners and communities that want to clean up and fix up for the spring.”

As one measure, planting vegetation along shorelines and riverbanks “can help stabilize the soil,” said Rebecca Hayden, senior manager of TVA Recreation and Shoreline Management. “However, some locations experiencing severe erosion might require additional bank protection such as riprap – broken rock material – to hold soil in place. While TVA focuses its stabilization efforts to protect cultural resources and TVA assets, we can suggest best methods for adjacent property owners to TVA land or shoreline to request approval to implement at their location.”

Lakefront property owners who wish to stabilize their shoreline with riprap or other methods, including planting new vegetation, should contact TVA’s Public Land Information Center at 1-800-882-5263 before they begin. Section 26a permits for shoreline stabilization can be issued by TVA at no cost to the applicant; this is true whether the applicant has an existing permit or not.

In preparing for the future, here are some practical steps property owners can take to help minimize shoreline erosion:

  • Leave forested waterfront property in a natural state to promote growth of native trees and shrubs, which have deep root systems to hold and bind the soil in place.
  • If waterfront property isn’t forested, preserve as much of the natural vegetation as possible. Plant native trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses – with approval from TVA if located on TVA property.
  • Before removing trees or cutting any vegetation from TVA public land, contact TVA’s Public Land Information Center at 1-800-882-5263.

What to do about debris

“Just like homeowners, we will be assessing and cleaning up our public lands and putting them back in order,” explained Edmondson. “When picking up debris, TVA focuses its efforts on our public use areas and areas that have the potential to impact operations.”

However, TVA does have a way to help with community cleanups: the Reservoir and Community Cleanup Fund. The RCCF is intended to help fund non-profit organizations seeking to do river cleanups in TVA’s service area, providing funds for supplies such as trash bags, gloves, litter grabbers, dumpster rentals, safety items and first-aid kits for volunteers. Other incidentals might also be covered including food, non-alcoholic drinks for volunteers during the cleanup event, publicity and/or rental of boats specifically for use during the cleanup.

“We’ve seen a growing interest in our RCCF program, and we’re proud to partner with organizations in communities across the Valley to make a difference,” said Rachel Terrell, manager of TVA Public Outreach and Support. “In 2018 we provided funding for shoreline cleanups and environmental education to 68 organizations.”

Funding requests should detail the name of the organization as well as the date and location of the cleanup event, along with an itemized list of supplies for purchase and the total amount requested. The request should include contact information, including mailing address and the group’s IRS EIN (tax ID) number.

Once requests are approved, groups sign a simple letter of agreement with TVA.

Funds are limited, and there is a $5,000 limit per year, per organization from the RCCF.

Requests should be sent to RCCF Program Manager at communitysupport@tva.gov.

TVA asks partners who receive funding to share statistics about the cleanup, including how many volunteers participated and how much trash was collected. Terrell said more than 140 tons of trash were removed from the Tennessee River last year.

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