DUCKTOWN, Tenn. – Commercial outfitters have secured a loan to pay the Tennessee Valley Authority $1.1 million in advance for 12 years of whitewater releases on the Ocoee River, officials said.
The loan arranged by the Southeast Tennessee Development District and eight banks, combined with a $500,000 federal-state grant, will ensure that rafters, kayakers and canoeists have plenty of current in the river that hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics’ whitewater competition.
The total $1.6 million loan-grant package will help TVA offset a projected $3.1 million loss in power revenues from diverting water from its hydroelectric generators on Ocoee Dam No. 3.
Under a deal crafted last year between TVA and 22 rafting outfitters, the federal utility has agreed to provide 34 days of scheduled water releases on the upper Ocoee annually.
The outfitters charge a fee of $3.50 per ticket to pay for water costs. Last year’s revenue was more than the TVA charge, so the extra will be put toward debt service on the loan and marketing the Ocoee experience, said outfitter Larry Mashburn.
Mashburn said 35,000 people rafted the upper Ocoee last year, up from 32,000 in 2005.