The Norris Bassin was the Tennessee Valley Authority's first and most significant experimental laboratory in regional planning. TVA had been created in the post-World War I era in 1918 in an effort to end dependency on Chilean nitrates for war production. Years later, in 1933 during the Great Depression, the Authority began to acquire land in the upper Tennessee region. Its main purpose was to create a storage reservoir and hydroelectric facility at the meeting of the Church and Powell Rivers. Senator George Norris's federal action program was designed to manage the river for flood control, cheap nitrate fertilizer production, navigation and power production. The process of taking land was accomplished through eminent domain which displaced thousands of families. The purchase of land occurred whenever and wherever TVA built a dam and reservoir; the Norris dam was their first project.
The Norris Bassin was a close knit community living in a pre-modern society. Most of the displaced were poor resident farmers who suffered from over processed land in an isolated and economically deprived area. This was mainly due to over population in a geographically disadvantaged region. Although outward migration during the industrial era helped people stray from their pre-modern society, the great depression forced them to move back home. When TVA started their regional planning, they hoped to bring technology to the Bassin and help them develop into a modern society.
"The Authority possessed-bountiful and cheap power, regional planning apparatuses, legal strength, and federal backing were the means by which the regional inhabitants, and indeed the inhabitants of the entire Tennessee Valley, could escape the limitations imposed upon them. In addition, it provided TVA with the means by which it could construct an environment more open to opportunity and mobility and less dependent upon manpower and nature" (TVA, pg. 9).
Whether or not TVA helped or hurt the Norris Bassin community is subjective. Although the dam provided new jobs and opportunity for the people, the plan lacked radical action at the grass roots level. The Bassin was still stricken with poverty and suffered from over population. Like many other communities forced to move from their homes because of eminent domain, people felt that TVA put their own personal interests over the community's needs. At first, the Bassin community was less opposed to TVA's involvement…but after the displacement proceeded and families were left to help themselves, attitudes soon changed.
People for the most part did not want to move, but they thought that they were doing something for the greater good. Older people had a more difficult time accepting TVA's plans because the town was all they knew. On the other hand, the younger generation was more flexible because they had less attachment to the area and spent the majority of their lives living in poverty.
Arthur E Morgan was an employee of TVA who had a "Utopian Vision" for the Norris Bassin. Morgan proposed the creation of small local industries to balance the agriculture of the region. The plan consisted of increasing the housing population from 250 homes to 1000, but was later changed to 150 homes to 300. Dormitories were built for the crew, and of 4200 acres, 1000 were designated to housing and community buildings.
Planning for the tenant resettlement was headed by John I. Snyder. He was in charge of land acquisition and had a non-empathetic approach towards the removal of families. He felt that it was the necessity of the tenants having to go which would make them find a solutions to their difficulties. His way of thinking shows a lack of understanding and compassion for the people of the Bassin. If the people within the community had the resources, education and motivation to help themselves out of poverty, they would have. By forcing them out of their homes, it does not mean that they will prosper in a different...
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