Guys, you are both bringing up some very good points. So much so that I decided to do some research and try to learn something new today (since work is killing me...).
Here is the initial premise for TVA:
Established by the U.S. Congress in 1933 as a critical component of President Franklin Roosevelt's Depression-era "New Deal," the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was initially created primarily to manage the Tennessee River's navigation and flood control problems, to encourage reforestation and proper land use, and to foster agricultural and industrial development. In time, the TVA grew to become the nation's largest public power provider serving more than 8 million customers over an 80,000-square mile region covering the Tennessee Valley. This area includes most of Tennessee and portions of Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. Following decades of operations as a massive bureaucracy, the TVA has dramatically streamlined itself in recent years in order to boost its competitiveness in preparation for the anticipated onset of deregulation.
In 1959 legislation was passed that changed TVA from a Government funded agency to a self-funding agency and thus making it more profit-centric.
Through time it has evolved, and now is based on three tenets: Energy, Environmental Stewardship and Economic Development and trying to balance the demands of all three at the same time.
Recently, in preparation for impending energy deregulation, TVA has taken on several internal projects to reduce its operating costs and overhead.
Here are a few links for anyone else interested:
The reality is that while we may want to protect the tailwaters for the betterment of coldwater fishing (which did not exist before TVA to the extent that it does now), there are a multitude of forces at play which will always trump fishing. Namely Energy and Economic Development. TVA supplies cheap power to the area to the benefit of new companies moving to the area and creating jobs. Yes our rates have gone up, but we are still one of the cheapest areas in the country to start a new business for a number of reasons (TVA being one of them). They have tried to do better at Environmental Stewardship but there are a lot of competing factions even in that area.
As for the specifics of the release of water on the Hiwassee, since they are spilling and not generating, its also important to remember that their job is to keep the waterways passable. With the 2 year drought we have had that is becoming harder and harder to accomplish. Compound that with problems at the dam and it may have been their only option. They have demonstrated that they are interested in helping with coldwater Fishery maintenance (to a certain point), but it will not win out over all the other competing factors.
Waterwolf posted a good link as well regarding the minimum flows. Here is the net of what is happening, due to the drought conditions (from that link):
If the total volume of water flowing into Chickamauga Reservoir is less than needed to meet system-wide flow requirements, additional water must be released from upstream reservoirs to augment the natural inflows (a function of rainfall and runoff), resulting in some drawdown of these projects. How much water is released depends on the time period and the total volume of water in storage in 10 tributary reservoirs: Blue Ridge, Chatuge, Cherokee, Douglas, Fontana, Nottely, Hiwassee, Norris, South Holston, and Watauga.
Are they perfect? Of course not. Should we stay on top of what they are doing? Absolutely. I think the biggest problem right now is Mother Nature. We need a break from this drought.