TVA is responsible for balancing flood protection, navigation, power generation, conservation and economic development in 45 reservoirs spanning 8 states. These competing and sometimes contradictory demands are the source of constant user group conflict and litigation.

Faced with increasing pressure from stakeholders for greater attention to recreation and lake levels a different approach was sought. TVA initiated a 2-year Reservoir Operations Study to better understand competing expectations and proactively address stakeholder conflict in a reservoir operations study.

A multi-stage stakeholder engagement process was designed enabling Federal and state agencies, NGOs, conservation groups, recreation and navigation interests, private landowners and local citizens to share input on expectations, attitudes and values. The initial meetings faced distrust of TVA and animosities between interest groups. Dominant personalities attempted to hijack some sessions. Clear ground rules, and a highly interactive process enabled the facilitators to maintain focus and deliver a rich range of expectations to the engineering team.

7 operational plans were developed based on the categorization and prioritization of stakeholder input and consultation with Group Solutions. Each plan maximized priorities that emerged from round one. (i.e. cheapest power, maximum recreation, maximum navigation, etc.)

These were presented in a second round of facilitated stakeholder workshops across the Tennessee River system.

Seeing priorities from the first round of input reflected in the operational plan alternatives significantly increased credibility for the planning team. Being able to see and discuss tradeoffs with subject matter experts enabled stakeholders to better understand linkages and support for a balanced approach.

A hybrid operating plan, based on the input received was adopted and implemented.