The Tennessee Valley Authority, which has agreed to sell 1,000 acres of its Muscle Shoals Reservation for commercial development, is moving too slowly in the process to make the land available.
Five years ago, the Tennessee Valley Authority agreed to sell about one-third of its sprawling Muscle Shoals Reservation, which is centrally located in the heart of the Shoals metropolitan area.
Since then, little has happened to make the property available to local governments — which have formed a cooperative to work with TVA — or to a private developer.
Sure, there have been meetings and public hearings to help gauge how to best use the property. That’s to be expected.
But what’s not happening is any real movement to let go of the unused property. TVA long ago mothballed much of its Muscle Shoals operation, moving employees into Tennessee offices as part of a reorganization. Since then, the 3,000-acre reservation hasn’t received the maintenance and attention it once did.
Important parts of the reservation that have historical significance, such as the riverfront and Civilian Conservation Corps-built walking trails and picnic areas, will remain under TVA ownership.
The Muscle Shoals Reservation is considered the birthplace of TVA, which was created by Congress in 1933 to help alleviate the grinding poverty of the Tennessee River valley during the Great Depression. Wilson Dam, which the Army Corps of Engineers built beginning in 1917, was turned over to TVA.
Other areas, where contamination from decades of nitrate production exists, will also remain under TVA’s supervision.
What makes the 1,000 acres of the reservation that are to be sold so attractive is their frontage on three of the most heavily travelled roads in Colbert County: Wilson Dam Road (Alabama 133), Hatch Boulevard (U.S. 43/72), and Second Street.
The potential sales tax collections from retail development along these routes creates a powerful lure for local governments, especially for Muscle Shoals and Sheffield.
Locally, the Northwest Alabama Cooperative District is working with TVA on how to dispose of the property. The cooperative is made up of representatives from Florence, Muscle Shoals, Sheffield and Tuscumbia city governments, and Colbert and Lauderdale county governments. A tentative agreement would create a distribution formula for sales taxes to local governments.
Ideally, most of this land should remain undeveloped and maintained as a park. But TVA no longer receives funding from Congress, and it has shown no interest in direct economic development of the property. Cutting through the bureaucracy of TVA has not been easy.
It would be helpful if the Shoals’ congressional delegation — U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, and Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville — would get involved and help expedite the process. Environmental and economic impact studies have been performed on the property numerous times, sot that part of the process should be complete.
If TVA no longer wants the property, it should make transitioning it to a new public entity or the private sector less difficult.