Congressmen oppose TVA ‘floating homes’ ban

Members of a congressional panel took issue Friday with a new Tennessee Valley Authority policy that requires removal of floating homes from public waterways controlled by the utility, reports Michael Collins.

Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations, blasted the policy as “an arbitrary decision” that would harm tourism-dependent communities and as an unnecessary distraction from the TVA’s mission of producing low-cost energy.

“This is yet another example of the federal government getting involved without seriously evaluating the consequences,” said Meadows, R-N.C.

Even the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia, said that while he agrees with TVA’s position that no one has permanent “squatting rights” on public waters, the utility should find a compromise that will protect reservoirs without harming families who already own floating homes.

Bill Johnson, TVA’s president and chief executive officer, said the utility’s board considers the new policy reasonable since existing floating homes do not have to be removed for 30 years.
Allowing them to remain beyond that time frame would be tantamount to giving a few people indefinite property rights to reservoirs that are intended for public use, Johnson said.

Despite a barrage of protests from owners of floating homes and marinas, TVA adopted the new policy last May. The policy prohibits new floating homes and requires that the roughly 1,800 existing homes on the 13 TVA-managed reservoirs be removed by 2046.

Floating homes are different from houseboats because they are anchored in place and don’t have an engine that would allow them to move under the own power. If moved, they must be towed.
Several members of Congress are working to block the new TVA policy.

Meadows has introduced an amendment that would prohibit TVA from eliminating floating homes if they comply with TVA’s safety and environmental codes. The amendment, part of the Water Resources Development Act, could get a vote as early as next week.