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Major Rivers, Tennessee River
barge route, Tombigbee River, Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, watershed development, Tennessee Valley Authority
The 1,050-km (652-mi) Tennessee River drains much of the southern Appalachian Mountains before it joins the Ohio River in western Kentucky. Improvements have made the Tennessee River navigable to small boats as far upstream as Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1985 the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway was completed, providing a barge route to the Gulf of Mexico via the Tombigbee River in Alabama. At a cost of $1.8 billion, this was the nationís largest navigation improvement scheme. Unfortunately, it has failed to increase traffic significantly on the water route.
While almost every major U.S. river has been used for hydroelectric power generation, irrigation projects, or flood control measures, the management of the Tennessee River is the best example of a regional approach to watershed development. The federal government created the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1933 partly in response to the desperate economic situation created by the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The TVA built more than 20 dams on the Tennessee River and has improved navigation as far upstream as Knoxville, Tennessee. As a result, the Tennessee Valley became one of the most important hydro-electricity producing areas of the United States. This inexpensive power attracted industries to the region, which has developed as a diversified manufacturing center. As a result, cities such as Knoxville and Chattanooga in Tennessee and Huntsville in Alabama have grown. Due to improved flood controls and extensive conservation measures, agricultural output has improved in the Tennessee River Valley, especially in the Great Valley of East Tennessee.
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