Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-1982

Abstract

Legal history is usually written from one of two time perspectives: as a narrative of events and changing conditions over a span of years or as an extended exploration of one fertile moment in time. In examining the intriguing entity known as the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), this article draws upon that chronological history to some extent. To a greater extent, however, it focuses upon revealing moments in the last six years of the long-running battles over completion of the TVA’s Tellico dam, which finally flooded the last remaining stretch of the Little Tennessee River Valley in the spring of 1980. In the eyes of most Americans the Tellico case is remembered largely in terms of its last five years, and particularly as the story of the little snail darter, the endangered fish that stopped the dam. Because the Tellico controversy was shaped by attempts of citizens to be heard in the process of federal decision-making, it also raised important questions of pluralistic democracy. These issues represented an array of discrete social values, many of which had been incorporated over the years into federal and state statutes and regulations. Thus, in describing the Tellico case, it is realistic to characterize the role of the TVA as that of promoter. TVA was a powerful federal agency that had taken on a localized political perspective and had become an unrestrained booster of local construction projects.