[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 107 (Friday, June 4, 1999)]
[Pages 30092-30094]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-14199]



Shoreline Management Initiative (SMI), Reservoirs in Alabama, 
Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia

AGENCY: Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

ACTION: Issuance of record of decision.


SUMMARY: This notice is provided in accordance with the Council on 
Environmental Quality's regulations (40 CFR parts 1500 to 1508) and 
TVA's procedures implementing the National Environmental Policy Act. On 
April 21, 1999, the TVA Board of Directors decided to adopt the 
preferred alternative (Blended Alternative) identified in its Final 
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Shoreline Management Initiative: 
An Assessment of Residential Shoreline Development Impacts in the 
Tennessee Valley. The Board's decision modified the Blended Alternative 
by increasing the shoreline management zone (SMZ) from 25 to 50 feet. 
The Final EIS was made available to the public in November 1998. A 
Notice of Availability of the Final EIS was published in the Federal 
Register on December 11, 1998. Under the Blended Alternative, TVA seeks 
to balance residential shoreline development, recreation use, and 
resource conservation needs in a way that maintains the quality of life 
and other important values provided by its reservoir system. TVA has 
decided to adopt a strategy of ``maintaining and gaining'' public 
shoreline, continue to allow docks and other alterations along 
shorelines now available for residential

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access and establish uniform standards for these alterations, and 
ensure that sensitive natural and cultural resources are conserved for 
future generations.

Environmental Management, Tennessee Valley Authority, 400 West Summit 
Hill Drive, WT 8C, Knoxville, Tennessee 37902-1499; telephone (423) 
632-6889 or e-mail hmdraper@tva.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Residential shoreline development along TVA 
reservoirs continues to increase. Currently, the amount of residential 
shoreline development on individual TVA reservoirs ranges from none to 
51 percent of the shoreline length. Of the 11,000 miles of total 
shoreline, 13 percent have been developed for residential uses. From 
1988 to 1997, TVA approved almost 19,000 applications for residential 
shoreline alterations, such as docks, piers, boathouses, retaining 
walls, and vegetation management. Residential shoreline use requests 
substantially dominate all requests for other uses (e.g., commercial, 
industrial) combined. During this period, the number of permits 
increased at a rate of six percent per year. If these trends and 
current shoreline management practices continue, TVA estimates that 
over half the shoreline could be developed within the next 25 years. 
This level of shoreline development could have unacceptable adverse 
impacts on shoreline and aquatic ecology, water quality, scenic beauty, 
and other valuable resources. TVA initiated the SMI project to review 
existing permitting practices and establish a policy to better protect 
shoreline and aquatic resources, while allowing adjacent residents 
reasonable access to the water.
    On May 27, 1994, TVA issued a Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS on 
alternatives for management of TVA shoreline residential uses. Public 
scoping meetings were held in 13 locations throughout the Tennessee 
River Watershed in June and July of 1994. The Notice of Availability 
for the Draft EIS was published on June 28, 1996. TVA subsequently held 
16 public meetings throughout the Tennessee River Watershed and in 
nearby major cities (Nashville and Memphis) in July, August, and 
September 1996 to receive comments. Almost 10,000 written and oral 
comments were recorded. The Notice of Availability for the Final EIS 
was published on December 11, 1998.

Alternatives Considered

    TVA initially considered six alternatives to respond to continuing 
residential shoreline development along TVA shorelines. In response to 
public comments on the Draft EIS, TVA developed a seventh alternative, 
designated the Blended Alternative because it included features of 
several of the previous alternatives. The alternatives were designed to 
vary in the standards envisioned for residential shoreline alterations. 
In addition, the alternatives varied in whether additional shoreline 
could be opened for residential access.
    Under Alternative A: Limited TVA Role Along Open Shoreline and 
Additional Areas, there would be no predefined standards for facility 
design or appearance, vegetation removal, or other shoreline 
alterations. TVA would, however, review permit applications for 
compliance with federal laws.
    Under Alternative B1: Existing Guidelines Along Open Shoreline and 
Additional Areas, TVA would continue approving docks and other 
shoreline alterations using existing guidelines. These guidelines limit 
the amount and type of vegetation that can be removed, limit the size 
of boat dock construction and riprap, and open additional shoreline for 
residential access on a case-by-case basis. These guidelines do not 
define parameters for channel excavation and do not define a maximum 
land/water surface area per lot. This is the No Action alternative.
    Under Alternative B2: Existing Guidelines Along Open Shoreline 
Only, residential shoreline alterations would be subject to the same 
standards as with Alternative B1. However, TVA would limit 
consideration of new applications for residential shoreline alterations 
to the 38 percent of the shoreline where private access rights 
currently exist.
    Under Alternative C1: Managed Development Along Open Shoreline and 
Additional Areas, TVA would enhance land management plans that are 
prepared for each reservoir with a shoreline inventory and 
categorization system and replace existing permitting guidelines with 
new standards. In these plans, TVA would identify additional areas to 
make available for residential access. The standards would maintain a 
100-foot deep vegetative shoreline management zone on TVA property and 
define the maximum land/water surface area that could be disturbed per 
lot. Individual boat channels involving less than 150 cubic yards of 
dredging would be considered. It was estimated that up to 48 percent of 
the shoreline could be developed under this alternative. This was 
identified as TVA's preferred alternative in the Draft EIS.
    Under Alternative C2: Managed Development Along Open Shoreline 
Only, residential shoreline alterations would be subject to the same 
standards as with Alternative C1. However, TVA would limit 
considerations of new applications to the 38 percent of the shoreline 
where private access rights currently exist.
    Under Alternative D: Minimum Disturbance Along Open Shoreline Only, 
TVA would limit consideration of applications for residential shoreline 
alterations to the 38 percent of the shoreline where access rights 
currently exist. In addition, a shoreline categorization system would 
be added to the reservoir land management plans prepared for individual 
reservoirs. A comprehensive set of shoreline development standards 
would be implemented, including a minimal access path, minimal 
vegetation clearing within a 100-foot shoreline management zone, and a 
low profile dock covering less than 300 square feet of surface area. 
Channel excavation would be prohibited.
    Under the Blended Alternative, TVA would adopt a shoreline 
management policy that allows environmentally responsible development 
of shorelands where residential access rights exist and preserves 
public benefits along shorelines where residential access rights do not 
exist. In addition, TVA would encourage voluntary conservation 
commitments across some areas with outstanding residential access 
rights. Standards under the Blended Alternative would include a 25-
foot-deep shoreline vegetation management (protection) zone with a 20-
foot access/visual corridor, limited vegetation disturbance outside of 
the SMZ, and boat channels with 150 cubic yards of dredging or less. 
For TVA residential access shoreland further than 25 feet from the 
reservoir, TVA would only permit limited cutting of small trees and 
selective removal of certain plants like poison ivy and invasive exotic 
plants such as honeysuckle. Existing development and uses established 
prior to the implementation date of the new alternative would be 
grandfathered. Also, waivers could be requested by owners of property 
within preexisting developments.

Response to Comments on Final EIS

    Volume II of the Final EIS contains summaries of and responses to 
the comments TVA received during the Draft EIS process. TVA received 
almost 9,500 separate comments. Although not required, TVA gave the 
public the opportunity to provide comments about the Final EIS and the 
Blended Alternative. To facilitate this, TVA held 15 public information 
sessions about the

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Final EIS and the Blended Alternative and met with and briefed numerous 
stakeholders including elected officials, lake associations, and 
conservation and environmental groups.
    A total of 215 comment forms and 27 letters were received on the 
Final EIS. Most of these comments were similar to the comments that TVA 
received on the Draft EIS, except for those that commented specifically 
on the Blended Alternative. In general, the public supported the 
Blended Alternative and viewed it as a substantial improvement over 
TVA's earlier preferred alternative, Alternative C1. A number of 
commenters suggested modifications to some of the Blended Alternative 
standards (e.g., increasing the width of the SMZ), but these were 
within the range of alternatives previously considered.


    The TVA Board decided to modify the Blended Alternative to include 
a 50-foot SMZ (an increase from 25 feet in the Final EIS). Other 
components of the Blended Alternative were adopted. The Blended 
Alternative appropriately balances residential shoreline development, 
recreation use, and resource conservation needs in a way that maintains 
the quality of life and other important values provided by the 
reservoir system. It recognizes the reality that previous decisions 
have already opened up 38 percent of TVA's shorelands to access, but 
commits to holding the line at this level and possibly ``gaining'' back 
some of the already opened lands in a way that would heighten their 
protection. The Blended Alternative also responds well to the public 
comments TVA received during the EIS process because it combines 
features from other alternatives that were generally supported, while 
not incorporating features that were controversial and highly 
objectionable to some segments of the public. During the period 
following publication of the Final EIS, a number of organizations 
questioned the adequacy of the 25-foot SMZ. These included the 
Department of the Interior, Kentucky Department for Fish and Wildlife 
Resources, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Conservation 
League, and Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning. In response to 
these comments, the Board decided to increase the size of the SMZ to 50 
feet in order to further protect the Tennessee River system.
    TVA will include the Blended Alternative standards in its 
permitting regulations. The standards and policies identified in the 
Blended Alternative, as modified by the April 21, 1999, Board of 
Directors decision, apply to all TVA reservoirs and become effective 
November 1, 1999.

Environmentally Preferable Alternative

    TVA has concluded that Alternative D, which seeks minimum 
disturbance along shoreline available for residential access and does 
not allow additional shoreland to be opened, is the environmentally 
preferable alternative. However, the purpose of SMI is to better 
protect the environment while allowing reasonable access to the 
shoreline by adjacent residents who hold outstanding access rights. The 
Blended Alternative better addresses the broader objectives of SMI and 
is also substantially better environmentally than current practices.

Environmental Consequences and Commitments

    The Blended Alternative advances TVA's commitment to resource 
stewardship and habitat protection through strong conservation 
approaches, including a shoreline inventory and categorization system 
designed to protect certain significant habitats. By limiting future 
residential access to shorelines where private access rights already 
exist and emphasizing the need to ``maintain and gain'' public 
shoreline, TVA is offering a much higher degree of protection to public 
shorelines than it has offered in the past. The Blended Alternative was 
formulated using environmentally protective measures. These measures 
     Protection of sensitive natural and cultural resources 
through a shoreline inventory and categorization system designating 
residential access shorelines into protection, mitigation, and managed 
     Promotion of conservation easements across shorelands to 
protect scenic landscapes, encourage clustered development, or to 
provide other public benefits.
     Promotion of best management practices for the 
construction of docks, management of vegetation, stabilization of 
shoreline erosion, and other shoreline alterations.
     Emphasis on education activities and incentives as 
important components of shoreline management.
    With the implementation of the above environmental protection 
measures, TVA has determined that adverse environmental impacts of 
future residential shoreline uses would be substantially reduced. These 
protective measures represent all of the practicable measures to avoid 
or minimize environmental harm that are associated with this 
alternative. Alternative D has associated with it additional protective 
measures such as a lower dock profile, less vegetation clearing, and a 
prohibition on channel excavation. This alternative was rejected for 
the reasons given above.
    As the components of TVA's new shoreline management policy are 
implemented, TVA will continue to work with all affected interests to 
promote environmentally sound stewardship of public shorelands. TVA 
will also monitor shoreline development trends in order to identify any 
actions that may become necessary in the future.

    Dated: May 24, 1999.
Ruben O. Hernandez,
Vice President, Resource Stewardship.
[FR Doc. 99-14199 Filed 6-3-99; 8:45 am]