The Snail Darter and the Tellico Dam
Background as to Why the Dam was to be Stopped: Along the Little Tennessee River, the Tennessee Valley Authority began construction of the Tellico Dam and Reservoir Project in 1967. The Dam would bring jobs to the area and bring needed useful water to the area as opposed to the shallow and fast moving river the residents currently had.
In 1973, after construction of the Dam began, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act. The Congressional Purpose of the Act was to protect endangered animal life. The ESA authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to declare an animal species endangered and to identify the critical habitat of the creatures. When an animal is designated endangered, government agencies must do everything it can to protect the animal from extinction. The policy was bold. The language was clear. The US Government would take all steps necessary to ensure the survival of all animal species.
Also in 1973, Dr. David Etnier discovery a previously unknown fish, the Snail Darter. Dr. Etnier estimated there were only 10,000 to 15,000 of the species left in the world. Dr. Etnier brought the status of the Snail Darter to the attention of environmentalists. In 1975, the snail darter was listed as an endangered special and the area of the Tellico Dam was designated as the snail darter’s critical habitat.
Based on this information, it was proposed that the Dam’s construction be halted, despite the fact that the dam was about 95% complete, and over 100 million dollars had already been invested.
Congress was not at all happy, especially the members of Congress from Tennessee and surrounding areas. The Dam meant jobs, electricity and other improvements in the area.
Speech from Congressman Baker Read to Supreme Court (In support of the Dam):
- Mr. President, I hope this is the last time around. I hope we can resolve this issue once and for all, and I hope reason will finally prevail. . . .
- Mr. President, the awful beast is back. The Tennessee snail darter, the bane of my existence, the nemesis of my golden years, the bold perverter of the Endangered Species Act is back.
- He is still insisting that the Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River, a dam that is now 99% complete, be destroyed.
- In the midst of a national energy crisis, the snail darter demands that we scuttle a project that would produce 200 million kilowatt hours of hydroelectric power and save an estimated 15 million gallons of oil.
- Although other residences have been found in which he can thrive serenely, the snail darter stubbornly insists on keeping this particular stretch of the Little Tennessee River as his principal domicile. ...
- Let me stress again, Mr. President, that this is fine with me. I have nothing personal against the snail darter. He seems to be quite a nice little fish, as fish go.
- Now seriously Mr. President, the snail darter has become an unfortunate example of environmental extremism, and this kind of extremism, if rewarded and allowed to persist, will spell the doom to the environmental protection movement in this country more surely and more quickly than anything else. ...
- We who voted for the Endangered Species Act with the honest intentions of protecting such glories of nature as the wolf, the eagle, and other treasures have found that extremists with wholly different motives are using this noble act for meanly obstructive ends. ...
Directions: After the reading, answer the following questions completely. Make sure to give thorough answers!!!
- What should be done about the dam,according to the ESA law (use your notes)?
- What is your position? To build the bridge, or save the fish? Why? (Not law based, opinion based!!!)
- What would you do if you were a resident of the town that was going to be flooded? Do you think it was a coincidence that the Snail Darter was found right after the ESA was put into effect?
- Does this change your position or reinforce it, and why?
- What do you think of Congressman Baker’s speech? Who is he representing and what is his position? Support this answer with examples.
5. What do you think the criteria should be for deciding if projects continue in areas where there are endangered species? (What is your own version of the ESA)
6. What do you think actually happened with the dam? What do you think happened to the Snail Darter specie?