Monroe County families clinging to land in eminent domain battle with TVA

Investigations

MONROE COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — Monroe County landowners are continuing their fight with Tennessee Valley Authority. The dispute started with a legal notification sent in June alerting two homeowners that TVA wants to enter their property.

When WATE 6 On Your Side first spoke with the families in mid-July they were really upset, and they still are. The power of eminent domain is defined by the taking clause of the Fifth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. Eminent domain is the government’s power to take private land for public use.

In Vonore, TVA had had continuing discussions regarding a right of way with some families dating to the late 1980s. The land in dispute is still owned by the sons and daughters of those who originally battled TVA.

Rob Mouron and Barry Duckett recently plotted strategy with Monroe County political leaders. Their objective is to continue their fight with TVA over eminent domain of their individual pieces of property.
TVA’s high voltage power lines hug the edge of Barry Duckett’s family farm and Rob Mouron’s home. The lines run from Loudon to the industrial park in Vonore along Tennessee Highway 72.

TVA filed a “Declaration of Taking” two months ago to lawfully enter the property as a right of way. The families were given a deadline of mid-July to answer the complaint. Barry Duckett’s farm has been in his family for nearly 70 years. The size of the property is just over 4 acres. Recently, Duckett contacted the offices of Tennessee’s two U.S. senators for assistance.

“Bill Hagerty’s guys have been very helpful,” Duckett said. “They’re trying to work this out with TVA. They say it’s just plum unjust to use eminent domain to take land for a power line that has already existed here for 40 years.”

TVA sent Rob Mouron and his wife a certified letter with a new map last month. It shows that TVA will need more space on the land they own. Originally, there was just a small slice of their property, now, they want the whole lot, which is over 2 acres according to Mouron.

TVA says it has been trying to work with the property owners since the original transmission line went up years ago. They say papers sent to the families are to allow survey crews to determine the right of way for the existing line. TVA told WATE that to maintain the line’s reliability, it needs a 75-foot right of way on either side of the line for a proposed upgrade to begin later this year.

“TVA is more than welcome to put it on the other side where they already own all of that land on that side and leave the people of Loudon and Monroe County alone,” Duckett said.

“It’s a shame for the people that own the property to have to get a federal attorney to fight TVA. TVA has raped Monroe County not once, not twice, but several times,” 4th District Commissioner of Monroe County Paulette Summey said.

For now, the families involved in the dispute with TVA can only wait. TVA calls it an “unfortunate situation” and it plans to complete its necessary survey in the near future.

The utility says it does not intend to conduct any core drilling activities on the properties. TVA says its intent is to be respectful of property owner’s rights. In Monroe County, the history of families fighting TVA over eminent domain, dates to the 1970s with the development of Tellico Lake.

That fight covered about 16,000 acres of farmland owned by more than 300 families, in three counties to make way for Tellico Dam and lake. With emotions still running high some 40 years later, we’ll continue to follow this story.

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