TVA discovers 'cultural resource' on Meigs County property

By TIM SINIARD
Posted 3/3/19

A Tennessee Valley Authority official has confirmed to the Cleveland Daily Banner the potential presence of a Native American cultural resource at a Meigs County property owned by Greg R. Vital, who, …

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TVA discovers 'cultural resource' on Meigs County property

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A Tennessee Valley Authority official has confirmed to the Cleveland Daily Banner the potential presence of a Native American cultural resource at a Meigs County property owned by Greg A. Vital, who, along with several other landowners, has been in a legal dispute with the federally owned corporation over its rights access to their properties for a planned line transmission project.

According to TVA spokesman Scott Fiedler, TVA has discovered "potential cultural resource" during recent surveys at property owned by Vital.

The discovery was made along Gunstocker Creek.

"As a result of our survey, a potential cultural resource was identified," Fiedler said. "An analysis is underway to determine what it is, and we are consulting with the appropriate organizations in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Environmental Protection Agency."

Fiedler said the discovery could result in TVA revising its proposed project.

"Depending on the analysis of what it is, it may require a re-routing of the proposed line."

He said results of the survey have been turned over to the Tennessee Historical Preservation Office. He declined to describe what was discovered by archeologists.

"We want to protect this resource and will not share any additional information with the public," Fiedler said. "We will continue to work with the property owners through the process."

The TVA project would construct a $26 million new transmission line that would begin at its Sequoyah Nuclear plant and extend northwest about 5.25 miles to the proposed Gunstocker Creek station, which would be located at the intersections of Highways 58 and 60 in Meigs County, according to a story previously published in the Banner.

The line will also run through portions of Bradley and Hamilton counties, connecting to the planned systems’ control facility. 

About 4.25 miles of existing line would be torn down and replaced with double-circuit poles. 

The transmission line project is projected to be complete by 2021.

In addition, the project would relocate TVA's downtown Chattanooga operations center to a 185,000-square-foot systems control facility located on 167 acres near Georgetown and Gunstocker Creek. It is projected to be completed and running by 2023. 

About 175 employees would be transferred from the current aging facility.

On Thursday, the Banner learned of a Feb. 21 conference call two TVA managers conducted with Vital informing him of evidence discovered by archeologists. 

Vital confirmed  the conference call had taken place, stating TVA officials had used the terms "sensitive, sacred, cultural resources, as well as potential for burial grounds and human remains" during the conversation.

"A few days ago, TVA informed me they had discovered sensitive and potential sacred artifacts on my property," Vital said. 

Vital said he has suspected the presence of such items, given the area's historical connection to Native American tribes, as well as its proximity to the Trail of Tears, where thousands of Cherokee people trekked to Oklahoma while being forcibly removed from the region in the late 1830s.

"I have always felt there were potential resources back there that needed to be avoided," Vital said.

This identification is more than about re-routing [the transmission line] in the short run," Vital said. "The information should be shared with the tribes and state historical authorities."

"If there are buried remains, there was a village," Vital said. "And if there was a village, there was a culture. I will do everything I can do help TVA protect everything back there," Vital said.

Vital and other landowners in the area have been embroiled in legal action regrading TVA's use of eminent domain to gain temporary access to their lands for the line transmission project.

During a court hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Chattanooga in January, Federal Court Judge Harry “Sandy” Mattice denied a motion by the property owners to set aside a Nov. 30 order that allowed  TVA immediate access to their properties for the construction of a new, $26 million transmission line.

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