KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Almost two years ago, federal marshals forced Nellie McCall, 77, out of her home and she stood by in tears while a bulldozer leveled it and workmen burned the remains to make room for the Tennessee Valley Authority's Tellico Lake.
But as it turned out, only 1 acre of Mrs. McCall's 90-acre farm was used for the reservoir. Now the huge government utility plans to give the land away -- to a three-county development agency.
'They'll build vacation houses there,' Mrs. McCall, who now lives with her daughters in Maryville, said Wednesday. 'They (TVA) just lied. This is a way they can wash their hands of the whole affair.'
Mrs. McCall and the family of Jean Ritchey, 60, were among several landowners whose property was claimed by the TVA because, they said, it was needed for the vast Tellico Dam project. The lake covered only a few acres of all that land.
TVA presently owns 22,000 acres around the East Tennessee reservoir. A large portion of the land belonged to 100 landowners and was taken through TVA's condemnation powers.
The seven-state utility paid more than $25 million for the land around the lake so it could control and regulate the area's development. Real estate developers say as lakefront property, it could be worth twice that now.
The Ritchey family was forced off a 119-acre farm in November 1979, about a month before the floodgates were closed and the 16,000-acre lake created.
'What TVA, Howard Baker and the Congress took from us with eminent domain, they are going to give away,' said Mrs. Ritchey, who works alongside her husband in the field in the family farm at Sweetwater.
'They took our land under false pretense. They said they wanted to control the development. At Tellico, our government stabbed a certain sector of its people in the back,' Mrs. Ritchey said.
TVA Director David Freeman told a group of regional farm leaders this week he believes the land around the Tellico Lake should be 'returned to the people' so it could be put on local tax rolls.
He said TVA would have guidelines for use of the property to make sure it is developed properly.
'By turning the land over to the local people under agreed-to land uses, they would then use their own initiative to bring in industry, improve the residential sector, and the benefits of the land could be developed,' Freeman said.
Bob Stivers, a Knoxville attorney who worked to stop the Tellico project disagreed.
'It's a way for TVA to get the albatross off their backs -- plain and simply,' Stivers said.
Mrs. Ritchey called the entire Tellico Dam controversy 'a sad chapter in American history' and said the latest proposal by the Tennessee Valley Authority is 'just more of the same.'
'This just makes me madder and madder. I'll go to my grave bitter about this,' said Mrs. Ritchey, whose three daughters teach school in the area.
Mrs. McCall said it didn't seem right that TVA would take her land under its powers of 'eminent domain' and then turn it over to a development agency so 'real estate men' can use it to speculate.