Federal Judge Sandy Mattice has signed an order giving TVA access to several farms along the route to a planned new $300 million power center in Meigs County.
Meanwhile, the farm owners have hired prominent Chattanooga attorney Roger Dickson to try to fight TVA access to the farms for construction of a high-voltage line.
The order says the farm lands "are deemed to be condemned and taken for the use of the United States" with compensation to be determined for the owners.
One suit is against Greg Vital, a well-known businessman who has raised objections to the line going across his Meigs County farm. His farm includes an old stone barn that is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Another is against John and Bridget Vantiegham, who also own property in Meigs County along the route to the power control center. Another is against the owners of Cornerstone Farm in Hamilton County.
The farm owners say they have only had a few months notice of the taking, but that TVA has been planning it for several years.
Magistrate Judge Susan K. Lee, who was also assigned to the case, has recused herself in a one-sentence order.
Here is the order signed by Judge Mattice:
Upon the filing of a Declaration of Taking and the deposit of the estimated compensation to which the landowner is entitled for the taking, the lands are deemed to be condemned and taken for the use of the United States and the right to just compensation vests in the person entitled. 40 U.S.C. § 3114(b). The United States of America, by and through its agents, is entitled to immediate possession of property condemned by power of eminent domain. United States v. Miller, 317 U.S. 369, 381 (1943). The statutory and constitutional authority of the Tennessee Valley Authority (“TVA”) under the TVA Act, 16 U.S.C. § 831, as an agent of the United States, to construct electric transmission lines and circuits and acquire rights-of-way therefore by condemnation has long been established. Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority,297 U.S. 288 (1936); United States ex rel. TVA v. Russell, 87 F. Supp. 386 (E.D. Tenn. 1948); United States ex rel. TVA v. An Easement & Right-of-Way Over 1.8 Acres of Land, 682 F. Supp. 353 (M.D. Tenn. 1988). In this case, Plaintiff has filed a proper Declaration of Taking (Doc. 1-2) and has placed with the Court an estimate of the just and liberal compensation to be afforded to Defendants for the taking (Doc. 2).1 Accordingly, Plaintiff TVA shall have and be put into immediate possession of the real property specifically described in Plaintiff’s Declaration of Taking to the extent necessary to allow, enable, and permit TVA to conduct “surveys, core drilling, appraisals, title investigations, and related activities to determine what portion of said land or interest therein is necessary for the erection, operation, and maintenance of electric power transmission circuits.” (Doc. 1 at 1–2). “[T]he Plaintiff [will] remain liable for damage to annual crops and other actual property damage resulting directly from the operations of Plaintiff’s forces in the conduct of such activities upon said land.” (Id.). Accordingly, Defendants are ORDERED to immediately comply with this Order and to surrender possession of said real property to TVA pending further order of the Court.