TVA has been involved in land-reclamation efforts since its founding in 1933. At that time much of the Tennessee Valleys topsoil had been depleted by outdated agricultural methods, and TVA scientists worked with farmers to restore the land to health.
Over the years TVA has joined many public and private partners in reclaiming land to combat erosion and protect water quality. These efforts have earned national and international recognition. Here are just a few of its successes:
- The Copper Basin. In this area of southeast Tennessee and north Georgia, copper mining and smelting that began in the 1850s caused massive environmental damage, creating a scarred moonscape almost completely devoid of vegetation. Read about TVAs massive efforts to reclaim the Copper Basin.
- Coal mines. In 1971, TVA launched a successful test project to demonstrate that mountainsides could be returned to approximately their original contours after coal removal. The approach was later incorporated into federal legislation that regulated surface mining. All coal contracts for TVAs fossil-fuel plants now contain provisions requiring that the mine operators carry out land reclamation, and TVA itself has reclaimed 1,000 acres of land previously left unrestored by coal companies.
- Other types of mines. In 1981, TVA and cooperators began reclaiming abandoned mica, kaolin, and feldspar mines in western North Carolina. Runoff from the eroding mine sites was seriously damaging water quality in the region. The project demonstrated innovative reclamation techniques and cooperative approaches that have since been widely used in this country and abroad.
- Reservoir shoreline. TVA manages more than 11,000 miles of shoreline surrounding public reservoirs. Field assessments of more than half of that total have identified over 100 miles of critically eroded shoreline. Since 1995, TVA and its partners have stabilized 353 sites extending 64 miles. One of the restoration techniques used in the project is soil bioengineering, a relatively new approach that combines plants and engineered structures to achieve soil stability.