Village taking on Asian carp issue

Boats stay docked near the Yacht Club. The POA has tasked a committee with leading the charge against a potential Asian carp invasion that could threaten these waters.

A four-person subcommittee tasked to look into how the Tellico Village Property Owners Association can give its input on Asian carp now has a work plan.

Asian carp are devastating water ecosystems throughout the state and making their way to Loudon County.

The POA board in January listened to a presentation by expert Timothy Joseph, which spurred the board to take action and task a committee. The committee, comprised of board members Pat White, Carla Johnson, Sue English-Kovar and Marty Inkrott, gave an update Feb. 19.

White considered the presentation a “baseline” showing where the POA stood.

“There is no debate on the Asian carp coming this way. They’re moving up the Tennessee River ... track it on the map, TRDA, TWRA, federal, state, local environmentals, everybody agrees they’re coming this way,” White said. “There are various organizations that are holding community meetings throughout this regional area and all the way through Pickwick and up to Kentucky Lake — everybody’s affected, they’re all having these meetings. Some of the people are taking a position of closing down locks and threatening with petitions and boycotts and blocking dams with fishing boats and all that.”

The board’s stance is more focused on trying to educate on economic impact.

“We don’t want in the POA — we don’t want to battle the TVA, nor do we want to battle the TRDA or the state legislature,” White said. “We don’t want to threaten anybody. We don’t want to say, ‘You will do this or we will do this.’ We want to say, ‘You have made an economic impact that is unparalleled in the United States, as far as I know, and wouldn’t it be a shame to allow this invasive species of fish that everybody agrees is coming this way to stop this economic development?’ That’s what we’re doing. We’re all on the same path to reach the same goal of halting this species, but we’re taking a different approach and that approach is the economics of it, the ecology of it, the future, and can we get something done in locks and barriers downstream in the Tennessee River that are not yet impacted so we won’t get to a point that we’re required to close locks at?

“In other words, if you haven’t found the fish at Watts Bar or if you haven’t found this invasive fish to a large degree in Chickamauga in Chattanooga, why not put a lock there and let the barge traffic continue to go through as you construct it rather than being forced one day to close the locks to put in your last-ditch effort to stop them from coming here?” he added.

White pointed to Aubrey “Red” Wagner.

“The position we want to take — in the 1930s a man named Aubrey ‘Red’ Wagner had a vision with the TVA to bring this regional area, particularly the Tellico river area, out of the Depression-era economy,” White said. “Out of World War II the boom in the economy in the United States went haywire as we all know from our history, but it still did not affect the Tellico river region. This man, Mr. Wagner, decided through the TVA through its demonstrated history could improve this area by creating the Tellico Dam, and he did. And then it got stopped obviously by the snail darter, and then you got it passed through the Tennessee legislature through federal congress to get an exemption of the EPA and then they closed Tellico Dam in 1979.”

Since then, population in Loudon, Monroe and Blount counties has grown exponentially, he said.

“All the industry, recreation, restaurants, infrastructure, Lenoir (City), Loudon, Maryville, Alcoa, all of us have reaped the rewards of this man who had this vision back then,” White said. “The message that our POA board is taking is that wouldn’t it be a shame to have a fish turn this vision that this man had decades ago to the point that the economy stops growing, that TRDA can no longer manage its properties that it has in the most recent decades, and then eventually as it’s been done in the Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake, actually reverse this economic trend to what it was back before Tellico Lake was formed. Wouldn’t that be a shame, and that’s the position that we’re taking.”

In the short time the committee has been in place, White said members have spoken with state Rep. Lowell Russell, R-Vonore, U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., and Friday with representatives of the Tellico Reservoir Development Agency. Hopes are to speak with the Tennessee Valley Authority.

“We had a sit-down with congressman Burchett and talked to him and others on the team have talked to other agencies,” English-Kovar said. “... There are more meetings to come out of that, but the results coming out of that — in fact, today actually is that we will be forwarding to Beth Kuberka (POA marketing director) a series of about five form letters, if you will, for our community to read through and also a list of contacts to different agencies and to the state and legislature to send whichever letter that they like to them and express our stance of looking for a sense of urgency for those who can act on this issue quickly. That’s kind of where we’re at now. As well, the POA will be sending similar kind of letter to the legislature and other agencies as well.”

Burchett recommended the letter-writing campaign, White said, noting the letters would not be threats.

“So if there’s a resident or a property owner that’s more concerned with their grandchildren having to compete on their float behind a boat getting hit with Asian carp, if that’s their concern, we’ll have a letter addressing it,” White said. “If somebody is concerned about their property values, we’ll have a letter with that. If somebody is concerned about the ecology of the lake, we’ll have a letter dealing with that. The idea is to let our residents and property owners choose the letter that they want to send and then send that letter.”

Updates will continue to be given to the POA board, White said.

“I think Pat was pretty clear when we talked. There’s a reason that we want to encourage the TVA and the state agencies to do the right thing because so much effort over the last ... (several years) put a lot of effort into making this area here and this area was created to be an economic boon to this community,” English-Kovar said. “Let’s do the right thing and protect it. Our stance on that is let’s work with them in a reasonable way. I guess that’s just a great way to go in life is to — it doesn’t help to be antagonistic if that’s what you’re looking for.”

During the Feb. 19 meeting, the POA board:

• Approved a Ford F-350 truck for the public works department at $69,365 out of the R&M Reserve Fund.

• Approved a Ford F-350 truck for the building maintenance department at $69,365 out of the R&M Reserve Fund.

• Replaced a water department truck at $38,908 out of the Water and Sewer Reserve Fund.

• Purchased a high flow skid steer loader for public works at $81,575 from unrestricted operating cash.

• Purchased a walk-in freezer for the Tanasi clubhouse at $14,342 from unrestricted operating cash.

• Moved forward with this year’s HA5 pavement preservation with Whitaker Contracting at $839,222 from the R&M Reserve Fund.

• Moved $500,000 from unrestricted operating cash to the R&M Reserve Fund.