Controversy on the Ocoee River, could mean more visitors to the whitewater venue on the Pigeon River. The Ocoee, recently named the nation's most popular whitewater river by the America Outdoors Association, and a huge tourism draw for the region, has more than 200,000 visitors annually. The Pigeon was ranked third in the country by the same group. Agreements with the Tennessee Valley Authority that guarantee the steady flow of whitewater on the Ocoee will expire at the end of 2018 and the agency is projecting a major increase in fees. Currently, $1 from each Middle Ocoee rafting ticket and $4.50 from Upper Ocoee rafting fees go to TVA. Starting in 2019 TVA projects those payments would jump to $8.80 for the Middle and $10.69 for the Upper Ocoee. Rafters on the Pigeon pay a $2.00 county fee, and no fee to Duke Power which operates the Waterville hydroelectric plant. TVA spokesman Chris Stanley argues that the money TVA collects from the river outfitters isn't about profit. He points out that whitewater is created when TVA releases water over two dams instead of diverting it through a 4.5-mile-long wooden flume to it's hydroelectric power station. The power producer says replacing the value of that lost power is important to maintaining low electricity rates for it's nine million customers. A total of 22 outfitters operate on the Ocoee, compared to 12 on the Pigeon. The Ocoee operators say that the purpose of the dam should include whitewater recreation. They say the federal government considers that factor for other rivers across the country, and as a result rafting companies do not reimburse the utility companies that run the dams for river usage. The operators say the Ocoee is the only river where outfitters have to reimburse a utility for lost power. They want members of congress to pass such legislation. Polk County is similar to Cocke County, in that 36 percent of it's jobs are related to the hospitality and tourism sector.
|Smoke from prescribed burn|
Much of Cocke County was covered in smoke Wednesday evening as the result of a controlled burn in the Cherokee National Forest. Ranger Leslie Morgan of the Unaka District, said the "prescribed" burn was in the Wolf Creek area, and involved just over 1,800 acres of forest land. She said the burn was undertaken under tightly controlled conditions including temperatures and wind speed that met guidelines. The move was intended to remove hazardous fuel in the area outside of Del Rio. Although the rangers have completed lighting the burn, Morgan said smoke will continue in the area for several days. The fire is being monitored by ground rangers and helicopters. The US Department of Agriculture says prescribed burning is fire applied to a predetermined area within a prescribed set of conditions, dates and with appropriate safety precautions to achieve specific purposes. Prescribed burning can be applied to forest land, grassland, pasture land, wildlife land, hayland and other land.
Hamilton County and six school systems in the Chattanooga area have sued the state saying they are receiving an inadequate level of funding because Tennessee has "breached its duty under the Tennessee Constitution to provide a system of free public education for the children of this state."The lawsuit alleges the state's funding formula underestimates the cost of teachers' salaries by about $532 million. It also said schools face an annual shortfall of about $134 million in classroom costs. Governor Bill Haslam spokesman David Smith pointed out that the governor recently made a commitment to discuss the funding issue with school systems.
AAA has announced it's strong opposition to bills that would substantially weaken Tennessee’s motorcycle helmet law. The proposed bill would allow riders 21 years and older, and not insured with TennCare, to ride without a helmet. Tennessee’s current law requires all motorcyclists to wear a helmet, regardless of age or experience of the rider. In October, AAA surveyed Tennessee voters and 91 percent of respondents favored keeping the state’s motorcycle helmet law in its current form. In states that repealed or weakened their universal helmet laws, helmet use declined sharply and deaths and injury rose. Tim Wright, Tennessee Regional President of AAA says the legislation is essentially a repeal of Tennessee’s helmet law because officers would be unable to determine if riders meet the requirements to go without a helmet. “Imagine officers trying to guess the age of a rider before pulling the bike over, then having no way to positively determine by the roadside if he or she is NOT insured by TennCare. This bill’s unenforceability means motorcyclists could ride without a helmet without fear of being caught,” Wright said. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that Tennessee’s existing helmet law saves 46 lives a year and $94 million in medical expenses.. The CDC ranks Tennessee sixth in the nation for lives and economic costs saved due to helmet use.
Thursday, March 26, 2015Ocoee controversy
Smoke from prescribed burn
Wednesday, March 25, 2015Newport Utilities approves new Ray contract
Webb pursuit and arrest
Smith jailed on assault charges
Tuesday, March 24, 2015Kathy Holt pleads guilty
CLB to meet in special session
Chuck Mason charged with attempted murder
Webber injured in crash
Cocke County Jail conspiracy
Monday, March 23, 2015Several face domestic assault charges
Burgess faces sexual exploitation charges
Cooper faces numerous charges following pursuits and thefts
Efforts to defeat net neutrality
Harwell wants to stop secret meetings
Sunday, March 22, 2015Tennessee jobless rate moves up
Dolly signs contract with NBC
KCCB works to control litter
Haney appeal denied