Environmental concerns and recreational development in relation to public health
Introduction: Environmental considerations and recreational development are major issues that must beaddressed in assessing the need for and value of water resource projects. In consideringproposals for these types of projects for approval and potential for funding, attention shouldbe given to the following four major topic areas:
- institutional arrangements
- project purpose and priorities of operation
- public health considerations
- environmental regulations and compliance.
A description of the elements contained in these topic areas is provided below, followed by a detailed discussion of the experience of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in dealing with these issues. Institutional arrangements (the organization, its membership, and functioning authority) must allow for a broad range of project considerations in the planning and developmental phases as well as during operation of the project. Project management should include expertise in disciplines that can address diverse user interests, such as environmental engineering, public health and vector ecology, fish biology, water quality, aquatic ecology, etc. Management should have the authority to make decisions and authorize changes in operations to accommodate environmental andpolitical issues as well as customer demands.
Organization and institutional arrangements: The TVA was created as a regional development agency in 1933 by an Act of the USCongress. It was one element in a broad programme designed to bring the nation out of severeeconomic troubles. Its structure, however, made it unique among federal agencies. The TVAwas set up to function as a government-owned corporation with a three-member board ofdirectors. At the same time, it operates with a reasonable degree of autonomy and theflexibility of a private corporation. Each director is appointed by the US president for a termof up to nine years. The directors’ terms are fixed and staggered at three year intervals, so thata director might serve all or only part of a term depending on political and othercircumstances.
The TVA is an independent agency, and not part of any federal cabinet department. Consequently, interdepartmental conflicts are limited. The TVA Act provided the agency with administrative freedom to meet the special requirements of its program and to adopt the methods of administration of successful private as well as public enterprise. It also authorized the board ‘to provide a system of organization to fix responsibility and promote efficiency’. The board decides upon major TVA program, organization and administrative relationships. Responsibility for conducting TVA programs, applying policies and methods, and performing services is delegated to the major organizationalunits.
Project purpose and operational priorities: At the time the TVA was established, development of the Tennessee River was limited to twotypes of single-purpose water management projects (Gartrell et al. 1981). The first of thesewas a series of low head dams and canals constructed solely for improvement of navigation,especially in the interest of commerce. The other type, consisting of only two projects, had adual purpose: hydro generation, and navigation improvement. In the late 1930s the TVAintroduced a third type, the multipurpose project with three basic purposes: flood control,navigation, and hydrogenation. Flood control was given the highest priority for operation,followed by navigation, with hydro generation third but strongly promoted as long as it wasconsistent with the other priorities.
These priorities were established with the TVA Act andremain the basis for operation today. In general, managing the reservoir system for floodcontrol, navigation, and hydrogenation is compatible with mosquito and aquaticvegetation control. However, other program interests, such as recreation, fish andwildlife, water supply, residential and other types of shoreline development, and other typesof customer requests, create ongoing conflicts in demands on the system (TVA 1990).
Public health and recreation: As already noted, the main reason for creating the TVA in 1933 was to transform this regionof economic and social depression into a model of regional development. One of the majorcontributing factors to the existing social depression of that time was malaria, which affectedthe health and well-being of a large segment of the valley population. Even beforeimpoundment of reservoirs began in the area, conditions existed that were favorable to themajor malaria carrier in the south-east, Anopheles quadrimaculatus. Depressions in thefloodplain along the major streams of the region, such as limestone sinks and potholes, heldwater for sufficiently long periods of time following floods or heavy rains to provide larvalhabitat for mosquitoes.
Water quality: There is no one pervasive water quality concern in TVA reservoirs, but a collection of concerns affecting various uses. As shown in the tables, more major water quality concerns have been found on navigation and western tributary reservoirs than on eastern tributary reservoirs, and these concerns are more often caused by non-point sources of pollution than point sources.
The specific concerns include PCB contamination of fish in the navigation reservoirs in the eastern half of the valley; aquatic plants from Chickamauga through Kentucky; pollution from major population centres affecting Boone and Fort Loudoun; pulp and paper mills affecting Douglas and Chickamauga; past DDT production near Huntsville, Alabama, affecting Wheeler; past mining activities affecting Nolichucky and the Ocoee reservoirs; and other non-point sources affecting Normandy, South Holston, Cherokee, Douglas, Watts Bar, Chickamauga, Guntersville, and Kentucky (TVA 1990).