‘This is my land and I plan on keeping it’ Monroe County families trying to fight TVA’s eminent domain

Investigations

MONROE COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — Several Monroe County families are angry with Tennessee Valley Authority after receiving a notification of eminent domain.

The power company says in documents that it needs to “take” several pieces of private property as a right-of-way for eventually upgrading transmission lines along Highway 72 in Monroe County. The TVA says they have been trying to secure a right of way on the homeowners’ property for more than 30 years.

Eminent domain is the government’s power to take private land for public use. The power of eminent domain is defined by the “taking clause” of the fifth amendment of the United States constitution. However, in Tennessee, the power of eminent domain has been controversial as many homes and farms were taken to build dams and lakes leaving families displaced.

Included in that land TVA is trying to secure a right of way on is a small farm in Vonore that has been in the Duckett family for nearly 70 years. The size of the property is just over four acres. TVA high voltage power lines hug the edge of the farm. It runs from the town of Loudon to the industrial park in Vonore along Highway 72. Last week, TVA filed a “Declaration of Taking” to lawfully enter the property as a right-of-way.

“They want to use my land and take it by eminent domain with a 200-foot-by-900-foot easement across my property,” said Barry Duckett, the current owner of the farm.

He showed us a 31-page document filed in federal court which he received last week.

“It gives me 21 days to answer this complaint or they get my land in the amount of 10 dollars which they have already deposited the check by eminent domain.”

He says his family’s dispute with TVA over the right of way has been ongoing for two generations.

“My dad fought them in federal court in the 1980s and won in federal court that they would never have an easement across this property or my neighbor’s property for that power line,” he said. “Here is the ten dollars that they have already deposited at the clerk’s office. They’re going to take my barn, my dog kennel, everything.”

Rob Mouron, Duckett’s neighbor, also received notice from TVA. A small piece of his property will also be affected by the right of way.

“I thought all this eminent domain was finished years ago when my father-in-law and Barry’s father went and fought and beat it in court,” Mouron said.

TVA tells WATE that the utility has been trying to work with the property owners since the original transmission line was constructed years ago. They said the material sent to Duckett and his neighbor is to allow survey crews to determine the right of way for the existing line. TVA says to maintain the line’s reliability, the utility needs a 75-foot right of way on either side of the line for a proposed upgrade to begin later this year.

“I’m shocked and horrified that they are using the eminent domain today,” Paulette Summey, Monroe County 4th District commissioner, said. “I thought that was long gone.”

Summey said she’s was disappointed to learn of the action being taken by TVA.

“I’ve already called the county mayor and some other people, I will take the information back on how we can support the people of our county,” she said.

TVA says “it’s unfortunate that we have to take this action but it’s vital to ensure the reliability of our power system.”

However, Barry Duckett is not giving up his battle with the utility.

“This is my land and I plan on keeping it. It was my parents’ and my grandparents’ land and I’ll fight them until the end.”

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