In a region along the northern Georgia/Tennessee border there is another environmental cause we can rally behind. The Ocoee River is the most popular white water rafting destination in the Eastern US.
My son and I recently went on a father/son trip down the Ocoee and had a blast. (I’m one row up from bearded guide. I’m easy to spot because I make the helmet look so good.) We went with Carolina Ocoee Rafting and they did a great and safe job. (Ask for Duck as your guide.) The entire area is a gem for recreation along a gorgeous river surrounded by the green peaks of the Appalachian Mountains.
There’s only one problem. The rafting relies on water releases by TVA from one of their reservoirs. Partnerships with Utilities are common among several white water rafting destinations. However, TVA is a government agency and though they have had an agreement with outfitters in the region for many years, they now want to be reimbursed for the water. According to TVA they lose revenue in the form of lost generation when the water is used for recreation. That’s because the water can also be diverted to the nation’s only remaining wooden flume to turn two small turbine/generators (Ocoee 2 and Ocoee 3, 23 and 34 megawatts respectively.)
At first blush, I actually don’t have a problem with this demand. Last year the Ocoee drew two hundred thousand rafters so 1.8 million dollars TVA wants to recoup amounts to less than ten bucks a visitor. I would have happily paid ten dollars more for the fun my son and I had the day we went.
But then the conspiracy novelist in me (See Amazon.com for my enviro-thriller Going Green) and I have to wonder…why now? As of this writing, wholesale power prices are twenty three dollars a megawatt. That’s a pittance to what they were as recently as two summers ago. There is currently no shortage of generation. I suspect it is because TVA has a mandate to generate all it can from “renewable” sources and Hydro power is considered a renewable. How ironic that even though privately owned utilites are not allowed to be reimbursed for the recreational use of water in similar situations, the one government owned utility demands it. But that’s not the worst part. TVA wants five years of reimbursement up front. That’s enough to put white water rafting outfitters out of business, as well as the restaurants and motels where visitors eat and sleep. Considering the green movements penchant for keeping us parasitic humans out of natural areas, and considering this administrations penchant for chumming up to green groups, is it possible that stopping human activity is actually the point?
If you’d like to make your voice heard or to learn more visit: http://savetheocoee.org/ .