The Original 1985 water release agreement
Concerned for their future with a new flume line soon taking the water out of the riverbed, Outfitters joined together to try to secure water releases for operations after the flume was scheduled to be finished. They formed an Outfitters Association and an additional lobbying organization to build consensus for their cause. TVA’s position was that they required full reimbursement for lost revenue due to not generating power. Outfitters view was that the river was a natural local resource that should be shared. This difference led to long protracted and sometimes controversial negotiations about how the river could be managed for power production and still accommodate whitewater recreation. After considerable involvement from the Tennessee Governor and The Tennessee Congressional delegation an agreement was reached. In 1983 the U S Congress passed Public Law No. 98-151 which appropriated $7.4 million to TVA for the purpose of providing recreation on the Middle Ocoee River. TVA agreed to provide 116 days of recreational whitewater releases per year on the Middle Ocoee for 35 years. The $7.4 million was to be reimbursed to the Federal Government via fees placed on commercial rafting customers. Payments were made annually and in 2018 the US government was repaid in full at the end of the 35-year contract.