United States Tennessee Valley Authority v. Welch Same v. Burns Same v. Lollis Same v. Bradshaw Same v. Rust Same v. Hyatt 533, Nos. 528

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBLACK
PartiesUNITED STATES ex rel. TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY v. WELCH. SAME v. BURNS et al. SAME v. LOLLIS et al. SAME v. BRADSHAW et al. SAME v. RUST et al. SAME v. HYATT et al. to 533
Docket NumberNos. 528
Decision Date25 March 1946

327 U.S. 546
66 S.Ct. 715
90 L.Ed. 843
UNITED STATES ex rel. TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY

v.

WELCH. SAME v. BURNS et al. SAME v. LOLLIS et al. SAME v. BRADSHAW et al. SAME v. RUST et al. SAME v. HYATT et al.

Nos. 528 to 533.
Argued March 7, 1946.
Decided March 25, 1946.

Page 547

Mr.Joseph C. Swidler, of Knoxville, Tenn., for petitioner.

Mr. McKinley Edwards, of Bryson City, N.C., for respondent Welch.

Mr. George H. Ward, of Asheville, N.C., for other respondents.

[Argument of Counsel from page 547 intentionally omitted]

Page 548

Mr. Justice BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

The United States, on behalf of the Tennessee Valley Authority, filed petitions in the District Court to condemn six tracts of land located in North Carolina and owned by the several respondents. It asserted that the power to condemn the land in question was conferred upon the Authority by the provisions of the Tennessee Valley Authority Act as amended. 48 Stat. 58 as amended, 16 U.S.C. §§ 831—831dd, 16 U.S.C.A. §§ 831—831dd. The District Court held that the Act did not authorize condemnations under the facts shown by the evidence and dismissed the petitions. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 4 Cir., 150 F.2d 613. Since the grant of power to condemn needed properties is an essential part of the Act, we granted certiorari, 326 U.S. 714, 66 S.Ct. 266.

The following basic facts form the background of this proceeding: Congress in 1942 in order to meet pressing power needs for war production empo ered the Authority to construct Fontana Dam, on the Little Tennessee River in North Carolina. H.Rep. 1470; 77th Cong. 1st Sess. 25. The dam is one of the world's largest and creates a reservoir twenty-nine miles long. Between this reservoir and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park lie forty-four thousand acres of mountainous land, including the tracts which the government wants to condemn here. When Congress authorized construction of the dam, two hundred and sixteen families occupied this area. Their only convenient means of ingress and egress, except for foot trails, was North Carolina Highway No. 288, a road approximately fifty miles in length. When the dam was built the reservoir flooded most of the highway, rendering it useless for travel. As a result the area remained practically isolated.

As events have shown, the problem this situation created could not be easily solved. Any solution had to take into consideration the interests of the United States, of North Carolina, and of Swain County, N.C., as well as the in-

Page 549

terests of the individuals affected. The United States' interest was that of the T.V.A. and the National Park Service. The T.V.A. had a dual interest. First, the isolated area, while not actually submerged by the reservoir, was a part of the watershed. Left in private hands it could be used to frustrate some of the objectives of T.V.A. legislation. Second, the fact that the dam had caused the highway to be flooded created a serious problem for the inhabitants and landowners in the area who had been damaged by the project. It was the statutory duty of the T.V.A. to attempt to bring about proper adjustments in order to alleviate resulting hardship and inconvenience. At the same time, the T.V.A. was not supposed to waste the money of the United States. The United States' interest in the land through the National Park Service was due to the fact that this particular area had been included in the Great Smoky Mountains Park project. Had this land been actually owned by the United States for park purposes it would have been easier to subject it to servitudes in the interest of the T.V.A. development. North Carolina was interested in the land because it was its duty to continue to hold and maintain a highway so long as its citizens continued to live within the area. Swain County had a similar interest. It had issued bonds to finance building the highway. Part of the bond issue was still outstanding.

Conferences between the interested groups brought to light facts which led to the solution ultimately adopted. It was agreed on all sides that the old road was narrow, dangerous, and far below modern standards for useful highways. Investigation showed that replacement of the old road with the same undesirable type of highway would cost about $1,400,000, while the cost of building an improved highway would greatly exceed that amount. All parties felt that the United States had neither a legal nor moral duty to build a new road of the superior type

Page 550

and quality needed. This meant that type of road could only be built if North Carolina would bear the additional expense. Since the highway carried no through traffic and serviced so few people, the state was not willing to pay for the added cost and all parties agreed that such an expenditure would be wasteful and unjustifiable. The War Production Board presented further obstacles. It was of the opinion that the road was not sufficiently essential to warrant use of the materials and manpower its construction would require. For these and other reasons North Carolina objected to the T.V.A.'s settling the controversy by a mere payment of damages to it for injury to the road and by the payment of damages to individual owners for destroying their access to the area. The State contended that this would leave the area in private hands with no adequate roads to serve the people and would impose unwise, if not impossible burdens, on the State and County in connection with providing schools, police protecti n, health services, and other necessary facilities.

After a year and a half of negotiations a solution was worked out. After the proposed solution was approved by the Governor, the Council of the State, and the Legislature of North Carolina, it was embodied in a settlement agreement between the State, the County, the National Park Service, and the T.V.A. Under that agreement the T.V.A. with the aid of a $100,000 contribution by the State was to acquire all the land in the isolated area, either by purchase or condemnation, so as to relieve the State from further responsibility for maintaining a highway to that section; Swain County was to be paid $400,000 by the Authority to help retire its outstanding road bonds; and the Authority was to transfer all the area lands to the National Park Service for inclusion within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park but reserving to the T.V.A. all rights required to carry out the T.V.A. program. The agreement, thus, satisfied the interests of the

Page 551

state, the county, the T.V.A., and the National Park Service. The cost to the United States was several hundred thousand dollars less than the cost of rebuilding the old road. And all the landowners in the area, except these six respondents who refused to sell, have received full compensation for their property.

The Courts below have held that T.V.A. had no power under the Act to condemn the tracts of these respondents as contemplated by the agreement. The District Court reached this conclusion by limiting the Authority's power so that it can condemn only those lands which are needed for the dam and reservoir proper. It reasoned that a common law rule of construction requires that statutory powers to condemn be given a restrictive interpretation. But Section 31 of the Act expressly provides that the Act shall be 'liberally construed to carry out the purposes of Congress to provide * * * for the national defense, improve navigation, control destructive floods, and promote interstate commerce and the general welfare.' In the face of this declaration, the District Court erred in following the asserted common law rule.

The Circuit Court of Appeals, without expressly relying on a compelling rule of construction that would give the restrictive scope to the T.V.A. Act given it by the district court, also interpreted the statute narrowly. It first analyzed the facts by segregating the total problem into distinct parts and, thus, came to the conclusion that T.V.A.'s purpose in condemning the land in question was only one to reduce its liablity arising from the destruction of the highway. The Court held that use of the lands for that purpose is a...

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152 practice notes
  • Daniels v. Area Plan Com'n of Allen County, No. 01-1158.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • 11 September 2002
    ...enacted plan to remove blight found by the legislature to be for public good. And finally, in United States ex rel. TVA v. Welch, 327 U.S. 546, 552, 66 S.Ct. 715, 90 L.Ed. 843 (1946), the Court stated that "it is the function of Congress to decide what type of taking is for a public use and......
  • Bobo v. Agco Corp., Civil Action No. CV 12–S–1930–NE.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Alabama
    • 29 October 2013
    ...on TVA, both for the nation as a whole and for the Tennessee Valley region. See United States ex rel. Tennessee Valley Authority v. Welch, 327 U.S. 546, 553, 66 S.Ct. 715, 90 L.Ed. 843 (1946) (“The broad responsibilities placed on the Authority relate to navigability [of the Tennessee River......
  • State of S.D. v. U.S. Dept. of Interior, No. 94-2344
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • 7 November 1995
    ...However, "a claim that a taking is not 'for public use' is open for judicial consideration." United States ex rel. T.V.A. v. Welch, 327 U.S. 546, 557, 66 S.Ct. 715, 720, 90 L.Ed. 843 (1946) (Frankfurter, J., It is settled that the United States may purchase land by condemnation for an India......
  • Midkiff v. Tom, No. 80-4368
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 28 March 1983
    ...Power Co., 240 U.S. 30, 32, 36 S.Ct. 234, 236, 60 L.Ed. 507 (1916) or developing a recreational area, United States ex rel. TVA v. Welch, 327 U.S. 546, 550, 66 S.Ct. 715, 717, 90 L.Ed. 843 (1946) (condemnation by TVA of private property for transfer to the National Park Service as part of t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
152 cases
  • Daniels v. Area Plan Com'n of Allen County, No. 01-1158.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • 11 September 2002
    ...enacted plan to remove blight found by the legislature to be for public good. And finally, in United States ex rel. TVA v. Welch, 327 U.S. 546, 552, 66 S.Ct. 715, 90 L.Ed. 843 (1946), the Court stated that "it is the function of Congress to decide what type of taking is for a public use and......
  • Bobo v. Agco Corp., Civil Action No. CV 12–S–1930–NE.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Alabama
    • 29 October 2013
    ...on TVA, both for the nation as a whole and for the Tennessee Valley region. See United States ex rel. Tennessee Valley Authority v. Welch, 327 U.S. 546, 553, 66 S.Ct. 715, 90 L.Ed. 843 (1946) (“The broad responsibilities placed on the Authority relate to navigability [of the Tennessee River......
  • State of S.D. v. U.S. Dept. of Interior, No. 94-2344
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • 7 November 1995
    ...However, "a claim that a taking is not 'for public use' is open for judicial consideration." United States ex rel. T.V.A. v. Welch, 327 U.S. 546, 557, 66 S.Ct. 715, 720, 90 L.Ed. 843 (1946) (Frankfurter, J., It is settled that the United States may purchase land by condemnation for an India......
  • Midkiff v. Tom, No. 80-4368
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 28 March 1983
    ...Power Co., 240 U.S. 30, 32, 36 S.Ct. 234, 236, 60 L.Ed. 507 (1916) or developing a recreational area, United States ex rel. TVA v. Welch, 327 U.S. 546, 550, 66 S.Ct. 715, 717, 90 L.Ed. 843 (1946) (condemnation by TVA of private property for transfer to the National Park Service as part of t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
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