CATEGORY: TVA Tennessee Valley Auth.



By Marty Russell

Daily Journal

The U.S. Senate gave final approval Tuesday to a conference bill containing funding for fiscal year 1997 for the Tennessee Valley Authority's non-power programs and the Appalachian Regional Commission. The bill also contains $2.1 million for work at Sardis Lake.

Both ARC and TVA have been instrumental in developing the infrastructure and economy of Northeast Mississippi since their creation and both have had to fight for survival in Congress in recent years.

The House approved the compromise energy and water appropriations bill last Thursday. With Senate passage Tuesday, the bill now goes to the president, who is expected to sign it.

The final bill provides $160 million for ARC and $106 million for TVA. The House earlier had approved $155 million for ARC and $97 million for TVA while the Senate had appropriated $165 million for ARC and $113 million for TVA.

The funding levels mark a reduction in each agency's budget over the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. In 1996, ARC received $170 million and TVA received $106 million for its non-power programs.

ARC and TVA's non-power programs both were threatened with elimination earlier in the budget process when opponents, who say the programs target specific regions of the nation to the exclusion of others, introduced amendments to kill them.

An amendment to eliminate TVA's non-power funding was defeated in the House and a move to drastically cut ARC's funding and phase the program out was tabled in the Senate and never made it to a vote.

Glenn McCullough, state director of ARC for Mississippi, could not be reached for comment Tuesday but said last week the anticipated funding level in the conference report was "something we can live with."

TVA has said it wants to phase out all federal funding of its economic development programs and make them self-sufficient over the next three years but has not said how it intends to do that.

ARC provides economic development assistance to a 13-state region, including most of north Mississippi. TVA, in addition to providing electrical power to a seven-state region including north Mississippi, provides economic development assistance and land and water resource management to the region.

In the bill approved Tuesday, TVA would receive $15 million for economic development purposes next year, down from $16 million this year.

The energy and water appropriation also contains $2.1 million inserted by the House for dredging a portion of Sardis Lake to make way for a privately funded marina. Mississippi's 1st District U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker has said the federal assistance could stimulate as much as $20 million in private investment at the site.

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