Monday, August 29, 2011

Norris Dam

On Friday I wrote that the houses being built for the Cumberland Homesteads had been wired in anticipation of the Tennessee Valley Authority. This large, federal project was conceived to provide flood control, generate electricity, improve navigation, manufacture fertilizer, and lead in economic development within the Tennessee Valley. The net result is that today the Tennessee Valley is one of the leading economic successes of all of Appalachia, if not the entire nation.

The first TVA project completed was a hydroelectric dam on the Clinch River north of Knoxville, which was named in honor of Nebraska Senator George Norris who led the fight for creation of the TVA. Before completion of the dam in 1936, the government purchased more than 152,000 acres of land, and relocated some 2,800 families and 5,200 graves from land to be flooded. An unfortunate sidebar to that story was that several of the families relocated bought farms in the Poplar Creek Valley of Anderson County. Then in 1942 the government took their new homes for the Manhattan Project and what became Oak Ridge, which was located there because of the availability of electricity from the Norris Dam.

Today only some 10% of TVA's power is generated by dams, with most coming from fossil plants and roughly a quarter from nuclear. There is a growing development of renewable energy that includes 17 wind generators on Buffalo Mountain and methane from a Memphis wastewater treatment plant.


  1. In the UK at the moment there's opposition to the growing number of "wind farms", even those built offshore. Compared to the risks to the environment from nuclear and fossil fuels having to look at some windmills, albeit very big ones, seems a small price to pay. Makes you wonder if in the past the Dutch objected to all their windmills.

  2. I have often wondered about Norris Dam. I've never been there, but passed the sign often enough. My father worked on the Fontana Dam when it was built. I used to tell people "my daddy built Fontana Dam."