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Thursday, July 20, 2017

CROSSVILLE FLASHBACK: 8 years ago city council used eminent domain to access Lake Tansi water

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Lake Tansi, the peaceful side of Cumberland County
(Editor's note: the action lead to a law suit filed against the city by residents of Lake Tansi that was eventually settled out of court.  The water harvesting has been used for several years and no complaints have been heard about the project recently.)

July 2009
Council approves eminent domain for Tansi Lake water

Standing Room crowd

Lake Tanis resident shirts

The crowd was standing room only and included television news coverage but when the dust cleared the Crossville city council approved moving forward with an eminent domain action to water harvest from Lake Tansi over the strong objections of some of the residents.

The showdown had been coming for some time. As part of the city's plan to expand Meadow Park Lake additional water will need to be used for drinking while the dam is under repair and construction and also to help fill the larger lake once the dam is raised some 23 feet.

The city has been working toward the lake expansion for several years and has sought water harvesting rights from Lake Tansi as far back as 2004 when the Tansi Property Owners Association (POA) asked the city for permission to connect some of the POA's buildings to the sewer line that runs through Tansi to Brown Elementary School. That offer was refused by the POA in 2004 and again in 2007 when the POA returned to the city again seeking sewer service.

Crossville Mayor J. H. Graham III started the discussion by pointing out that the council met some 10 to 12 years ago and discussed a plan including roads, infrastructure, water and sewer to meet the needs of a future community population estimated to grow to some 100,000 people.

“We want to make sure the community has a pristine and potable water supply in an area with no large rivers or lakes,” explained Graham.

City Engineer Tom Wolf told the council and the audience that according to the recent raw water study the city is currently at about 75 to 80 percent of its capacity of generating 7.5 million gallons of drinking water per day. To meet the estimated demand 40 years in the future will require doubling the capacity to 14 million gallons per day. The plan is to raise the Meadow Park Lake Dam 23 feet to allow a 20 foot increase in the current level of the lake.

A study of the costs of the necessary water harvesting component to sustain the lake showed that the Tansi option was the most cost effective at a cost of $5 million and the lowest annual operating costs. The study also looked at water harvesting from the Caney Fork River some 4.5 miles away from Meadow Park Lake with an initial cost of $15 million and also looked at pumping water up from Watts Bar at an initial cost of $61 million.

“We are trying to insure that the people of the county and their children and grandchildren will have clean potable water to drink, commented Councilman Boyd Wyatt.

City manager Ted Meadows outlined 4 or 5 meetings with Tansi representatives in the last several weeks. Meadows said he'd made proposals and presented an MOU but it was not accepted.

Meadows outlined three reasons that the city would need to use Lake Tansi water. One would be in the case of a federally declared drought emergency and as bad as last summer was, Meadows said it was never declared an emergency.

The city would also need water while Meadow Park lake is drained to make repairs on the lake side of the dam. During that time the water from Tansi would be pumped directly into the treatment plant and not into the lake according to Meadows. This would be needed to make sure the area had adequate drinking water and would be needed to continue until the dam is repaired.

“We can't pull 4.5 million gallons out of Holiday Lake to meet the area's water demand,” explained Meadows. “We plan to do the work during the wet season and the work should take about 4 to 6 months.”

The final reason the city would pump water from Tansi would be to help fill the newly expanded lake once the dam is raised. This water would only be taken when there is excess water in Lake Tansi and water is flowing over the dam.

Meadows said, “I hope enough people are learning facts rather then fears or rumors that have been out there.”

Meadows advised the council his recommendation was to move forward on this action as soon as possible because if the city loses the $2 million grant that cost will be reflected in future water bills. According to Meadows, the expansion of Meadow Park Lake solely depends on pulling water from lake Tansi.

City clerk Sally Oglesby said that the state revolving loan officials wanted an answer on the city's plan the day after the council meeting. She said the city might have until the end of the month to decide what do do but it was not guaranteed. She explained that the state had to use the funds or lose them so if Crossville couldn't use the money it would probably go elsewhere in Tennessee.

Joe Looney, acting as city attorney in the absence of Ken Chadwell discussed the process for eminent domain and the city's ability to use it even outside of Crossville's corporate limits.

The motion was made to move forward with the eminent domain condemnation but in the mean time Meadows was told to continue negotiations between the city and the POA. According to Meadows, the city attorney has been working with the POA's attorney, Knoxville's Bud Gilbert on the matter.

The unanimous vote in favor of the motion elicited groans and grumbling from the Tansi crowd and Councilman Carl Duer spoke to the group telling them that he had lived on Holiday Lake for many years and there had been no major problems with the use of the lake for water. Duer told the Tansi residents that the city was not trying to penalize or hurt them and that the water was important. He also urged them not to let their emotions get out of hand.

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