PRESS RELEASE from Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Dec. 20, 2018:

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission (TFWC) has made regulatory changes in response to the confirmation of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer in Fayette and Hardeman counties. The changes came at a special called meeting of the TFWC on Thursday (Dec. 20) at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency headquarters.

The commission voted to establish a CWD management zone which currently includes Fayette, Hardeman, and McNairy counties. The commission took action to create deer carcass exportation restrictions and a restriction on feeding wildlife within the high risk area of the CWD management zone, exceptions apply. The high risk area of the CWD management zone includes counties within a 10-mile radius of the location of a confirmed CWD positive deer.

Another regulation change for the CWD management zone, is the creation of a new deer hunting season. An archery/muzzleloader/gun deer season was established there for Jan. 7-31, 2019. The bag limit for the season is one antlered deer and unlimited for antlerless deer. All wildlife management areas and other public land on which deer hunting activities are permitted within the three counties will be open during this newly-established season.

On or after Dec. 29, 2018, all hunters harvesting deer on weekends (Saturday-Sunday) are required to check the deer in at a physical check station. The TWRA will publish the locations of these stations on its website.

The TWRA is continuing its efforts of targeted sampling for CWD outside of the CWD management zone. Emphasis will be placed on those counties surrounding the CWD management zone.

With the positive confirmation, Tennessee became the 26th state to have documented CWD. There have also been three Canadian provinces to have CWD.

The TWRA enacted the CWD Response Plan last week following the preliminary positive detection. The response involves a coordinated effort between TWRA, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and other partners.

Although CWD has no known risk to the health of humans or livestock, it is a contagious and deadly neurological disorder that affects members of the deer family. It is transmitted through animal-to-animal contact, animal contact with a contaminated environment, and with contaminated feed or water sources. It is the most significant threat to the deer population nationwide, as it is 100 percent fatal to deer and elk. Wildlife agencies across the country are working to inform the public about CWD, its deadly results and possible impacts to economies.

More information about CWD, including cervid import restrictions, and videos that explain how to properly dress an animal before transporting it, can be found on TWRA’s website at www.tnwildlife.org. (https://www.tn.gov/content/tn/twra/hunting/cwd.html/)

PRESS RELEASE from the Office of Tennessee Comptroller Justin P. Wilson, December 19, 2018:

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has released a performance audit of the Tennessee Department of Education detailing many of the problems that led up to the difficulties in executing the spring 2018 TNReady tests.

The online student assessment tests were plagued with numerous issues including login delays, slow servers, and software bugs. The first signs of trouble began on April 16, 2018 and continued through the end of the month.

Auditors determined that many of these issues occurred primarily because of Questar Assessment, Inc’s performance and updates to the student assessment system. Auditors also found the Department of Education’s oversight of test administration fell short of expectations.

The performance audit’s nine findings include five issues surrounding TNReady. These findings include:

  • The department’s lack of sufficient, detailed information on its Work Plan with Questar rendered it less effective as a monitoring tool to ensure Questar met all deadlines.
  • Questar’s decision to make an unauthorized change to text-to-speech software without formally notifying the department. This change contributed to the online testing disruptions.
  • Questar’s failure to sufficiently staff customer support, resulting in lengthy call wait times and high rates of abandoned calls.
  • A failure to track, document, and provide status updates to districts to let them know when students’ tests would be recovered, leaving districts unaware if their students completed the required tests.
  • Inadequate evaluation and monitoring of internal controls implemented by external information technology service providers, such as Questar.

Over the course of the audit, the department and Questar worked constantly to address the issues that caused or contributed to the spring 2018 testing problems. On October 1, 2018, Questar and the department signed a contract amendment introducing new requirements and accountability measures for Questar. The department also made adjustments to improve its contract management.

The Comptroller’s Office will present its audit findings to the General Assembly’s Education, Health, and General Welfare Joint Subcommittee of Government Operations on December 19. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in House Hearing Room III.

To view the audit report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/sa/

News Release from the Beacon Center of Tennessee, December 17, 2018:

Link: http://www.beacontn.org/beacon-releases-2018-pork-report/

In the 13th annual Tennessee Pork Report, the Beacon Center once again revealed millions of dollars in government waste, fraud, and abuse ranging from a new taxpayer-funded MLS soccer stadium in Nashville to a Memphis company that was given $5 million just to move across town.

The Pork Report highlights a combination of government mismanagement, incompetence, and outright fraud. The Beacon Center allowed Tennesseans to vote on their choice for the Pork of the Year award, and the “winner” was former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry.

Mayor Barry wasted over $174,000 in taxpayer money on her extramarital affair, which included paying her bodyguard overtime so that he could take trips with her to places like France and Greece. To make matters worse, she consistently lied to both the press and the public until finally pleading guilty to felony theft.

Other finalists for Pork of the Year included:

  • $5.5 million of state taxpayer money so that the company ServiceMaster could move from the outskirts of Memphis to downtown Memphis while not creating a single new job.
  • At least $17.5 million for the Wall Street Firm AllianceBernstein to move from New York City to the taxpayer-funded 5th and Broadway Building in downtown Nashville. We say “at least” because we have no idea how much the state and city actually gave AllianceBernstein since the number was blacked out for “privacy” concerns.
  • Tens of millions of dollars in buyouts by the University in Tennessee to pay for their hiring mistakes, including former Chancellor Beverly Davenport, former football coach Butch Jones, and former athletic director John Currie, just to name a few.

The 2018 Pork Report comes from state and local budgets, media reports, state audits, and independent research conducted by Beacon Center staff and scholars. An electronic version of the report (pdf) can be found here.

The Beacon Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and independent organization dedicated to providing expert empirical research and timely free market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee.

A special state legislative committee tasked with assessing government transparency in Tennessee appears to have concluded that tinkering with state’s public records statutes may be in order.

Just how comprehensive a rewrite, and where exactly to start, remain unclear, though.

Last week, House and Senate lawmakers serving on the Open Records Ad Hoc Committee concluded their assignment of investigating and recommending changes to transparency rules that stipulate what documents and information is and is not available for public inspection.

But committee chairman Jason Zachary, a Republican state representative from Knoxville, said the process of identifying and deciding how to remedy legitimate transparency trouble-spots has been tougher than expected.

“We didn’t realize what an extensive and exhaustive lift this would be,” he said.

As a matter of law in Tennessee, all public records are presumed open for public inspection unless otherwise indicated by the Legislature.

Over the years, however, lawmakers have become adept at stipulating that some information or records created or covered under statutes and program the General Assembly enacts are in fact exempt from that assumption of transparency.

“Essentially, if there is a law saying that the record is not open to the public, then it cannot be released,” Jason Mumpower, chief of staff to the state comptroller, told members of the committee back in August.

“The amount of exceptions have grown over time,” added Mumpower.

In 1955, when the Act was passed, there were just two exceptions to it written into law. By 1988 there were 39. Now there are 563 exceptions, Mumpower said.

The comptroller’s office tabulated all the existing state-law exceptions to the Open Records Act for the committee to scrutinize.

Trying to protect legitimate concerns of privacy and confidentiality on the one hand, and ensuring the public’s right to keep a close watch on the activities of government on the other, can make for a tricky balancing act, said Mumpower.

“Government officials certainly have an obligation to quickly provide access to public records, but they also have a duty to ensure that they do not disclose confidential information,” he said, adding that lawsuits have arisen in Tennessee as a result of one party thinking a record was open under the wording of a law, and another party believing it confidential under the very same wording.

Zachary anticipates a bureaucratically laborious task that will take time and require more staff resources. “Some states have taken up to ten years to walk through those exemptions,” he said. Nevertheless, the committee is expected to advise the full Legislature that the time has come to develop a process for “sunsetting” certain existing exceptions deemed unnecessary or overly broad.

An easier mission will be making sure that more sunlight is cast on the process on the front end, Zachary predicted.

Requiring that expressly designated committees in both House and Senate chambers specifically consider bills with transparency law exemptions provisions tacked on — and explicitly determine whether those provisions are indeed warranted — would help address that issue, he said.

Bill Lee, who will take the reins as the state’s governor from Bill Haslam in January, has indicated he too perceives a need for more openness in Tennessee government.

Lee has promised a “complete overhaul of our open records and open meetings acts to make government more transparent.”

“Tennessee taxpayers deserve a transparent and open government,” Lee’s transition website declares. He’s also committed to establishing “a new program to invite and receive public comments on new laws before signing.”

Furthermore, Lee says he’ll make it a priority “to get out of the bubble of Nashville to deliver State of the State addresses in all three Grand Divisions throughout his tenure.”

Incoming governors visit White House

Tennessee’s gubernatorial election winner, Republican Bill Lee, was among a group of more than a dozen new voter-endorsed state-level chief executives from around the country to meet with President Donald Trump this week.

Lee and 21 other incoming governors were invited the the White House for the Dec. 13 gathering — although eight Democrats were no-shows, according to news reports.

During the meeting, Lee sat between Democratic Michigan Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer and Vice President Mike Pence, who served as GOP governor of Indiana from 2013 to 2017.

When his time came to introduce himself to the president, Lee said he was “honored” to be in the room with Trump and the vice president, and that he looks forward to “serving the people of Tennessee and partnering with you.”

Trump responded, “Fantastic race — you did a great job.”

Lee, a wealthy Tennessee businessman, earned Trump’s endorsement after he bested a crowded field of GOP candidates for governor in the August 2 primary.

“Congratulations to Bill Lee of Tennessee on his big primary win for Governor last night,” Trump tweeted on Aug. 3. “He ran a great campaign and now will finish off the job in November. Bill has my total and enthusiastic Endorsement!”

Lee went on in the general election to defeat the Democrat’s candidate, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, by 20 points and more than 470,000 votes, 59 percent to 39 percent.

PRESS RELEASE from Vanderbilt University’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, Dec. 14, 2018:

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Governor-elect Bill Lee will enter office with a strong favorability rating of 57 percent, with only 22 percent of registered voters holding an unfavorable view, according to the latest Vanderbilt University Poll. The findings also suggest Lee will also find support for some of his initiatives, including expanding vocational training in the state. Meanwhile, health care has surpassed the economy and education for the first time in the poll’s history as Tennesseans’ chief priority for state government.

“Overall, we see support for an agenda that could work for our incoming governor,” said John Geer, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science and co-director of the Vanderbilt Poll. “Education and the economy are strong priorities, as well as immigration and infrastructure.”

“The one worry Bill Lee must deal with is health care, which has risen in importance to Tennesseans,” said poll co-director Josh Clinton, Abby and Jon Winkelried Professor of Political Science. “Although the two are related, health care now takes precedence above the economy to voters here.”

The poll of 1,004 demographically representative registered voters was conducted Nov. 19-Dec. 6, covering a variety of state and national issues. The margin of error is ±4.0 and full findings and methodology may be found at vu.edu/poll. Highlights include:

Health Care

Thirty percent of Tennesseans chose health care out of a list of issues as the state’s top priority and another 20 percent recommended it as the state’s second-highest priority.

Opioid addiction remains a serious concern; 86 percent of Tennesseans characterize it as an emergency or a major problem, while 43 percent say they personally know someone affected by it.

Medicaid expansion, a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, remains quite popular in the state, with 66 percent in favor. This puts the state legislature’s and the Governor-elect’s position against it at odds with public opinion, Geer said, noting that this is not unique to Tennessee, and that other states have let the people decide. “There were three Republican-dominated states—Idaho, Nebraska and Utah—with the same dynamic that voted via referendum for Medicaid expansion in the last election,” he said.

Though respondents indicated a variety of preferences regarding the future of the U.S. health care system, making it hard to know what exactly voters might want, there appears to be little appetite for a return to pre-ACA days: 21 percent would like to see a Republican plan replace the ACA, 32 percent want to expand the ACA and 23 percent want a Medicare-for-all-type system.

Education

Education follows close on health care’s heels in Tennesseans’ minds, with 21 percent saying it should be the state’s top priority and another 23 percent selecting it as the state’s second-highest priority.

“There’s a real opportunity here for Governor-elect Lee to advance his support for more vocational education as he enters office,” said Geer. Fifty-seven percent of Tennesseans say it’s more important for public schools to provide vocational training, while just 33 percent say preparing students for college is more important.

Of those supporting vocational education, 71 percent would support a tax increase to fund those programs, while 59 percent would support redirecting existing resources to it. “That people are prepared to support an increase in taxes to make more vocational training available underscores the importance of this issue to voters,” said Clinton.

Consistent with previous polls, 63 percent of Tennesseans say children of undocumented immigrants should be eligible for in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.

Vouchers, by contrast, remain a big question mark in Tennessee: A full 43 percent say they don’t know enough to have a clear opinion about them, while just 24 percent say they support them.

Approval and Favorability Ratings

President Trump has a 52 percent approval rating in the state, in line with previous polls. Outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam remains the most popular politician in the state, with a 61 percent approval rating, while Senators Alexander and Corker stand at 48 percent and 45 percent, respectively—also in line with previous polling.

Congress remains highly unpopular, with just 26 percent approval, while the state legislature enjoys a healthy 54 percent approval rating.

By comparison to Governor-elect Bill Lee, Senator-elect Marsha Blackburn will arrive in Washington with much less public support. Only 45 percent of Tennesseans had a favorable view of her, with 50 percent holding an unfavorable view. Geer noted that this is particularly unusual because the candidate she beat, Phil Bredesen, received a favorability rating of 54 percent, with 34 percent unfavorable—suggesting many Tennesseans voted for her despite holding more favorable views of her opponent.

“Perhaps the Kavanaugh confirmation gave many Republicans and Independents enough reason to vote for Blackburn, despite their reservations,” said Geer.

About the Vanderbilt Poll

The Vanderbilt Poll is supported by the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt University. The statewide poll is typically conducted just before the start of each legislative session and at the end of each session, in part to determine how closely the results of the session align with voters’ expectations and priorities. CSDI also conducts a yearly Nashville poll, as well as additional special polls. In 2015, the Vanderbilt Poll became a charter member of the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s Transparency Initiative.

PRESS RELEASE from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Dec. 14, 2018:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee State Parks is encouraging shoppers this holiday to support conservation efforts through making a seasonal toast with their coffee roast or by spreading some cheer with their beer. A portion of the sales of the “State Parks Coffee” and the “State Park Blonde Ale” support the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy, a nonprofit partner of the state parks system.

The state parks have joined Just Love Coffee on three flavors branded as Tennessee State Parks varieties – Earthy Blueberry for West Tennessee, Chocolate Raisin for Middle Tennessee, and Smoky Blueberry for East Tennessee.

The coffee flavors are available for sale in 16 state park gift shops across the state, including Cumberland Mountain, Fall Creek Falls, Montgomery Bell, Roan Mountain, Cedars of Lebanon, Dunbar Cave, Henry Horton, Natchez Trace, Old Stone Fort, Paris Landing, Pickett, Pickwick Landing, Radnor Lake, Reelfoot Lake, Sycamore Shoals, and the central office at the Tennessee Tower in downtown Nashville. Tennessee State Parks staffer David Pineros did the artwork on the labels.

Meanwhile, Tennesseans can still enjoy the State Park Blonde Ale introduced last year by the state parks in a partnership between Tennessee Brew Works and the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy.

The beer is available in select retailers in the state, including most Kroger stores in the Middle Tennessee and Knoxville areas; most Food City locations in Chattanooga and Knoxville; and most independent liquor stores including Party Mart and the Forked Vine in Jackson; Bristol Beer and Cigar in Bristol; Frugal MacDoogal, Midtown Corkdorks Wine and Spirits and the Filling Station in Nashville; Stones River Total Beverage in Murfreesboro; Chattanooga Wine and Spirits and Riverside Wine and Spirits in Chattanooga; and Total Wine and Bearden Beer Market in Knoxville.

“Tennessee is known for its unique characteristics, and these products reflect that,” said Brock Hill, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “When you gift the coffee or the beer you are really making two gifts. It’s a great way to support conservation efforts in Tennessee State Parks.”

Shoppers can also give Tennessee State Parks gift cards, available at all 56 state parks, Kroger stores and Target stores throughout the state, as well as at the Tennessee State Parks central office in Nashville and online at https://tnstateparks.com/about/gift-card.

The cards are also available at GiftCardMall.com. The gift cards apply to lodging at campgrounds, cabins and inns; golfing; restaurants; marinas; gift shop items and vacation tours.

A national organization that tracks efforts on higher education campuses to suppress the exercise of free speech has declared that Tennessee is, on whole, basically average when it comes to universities respecting First Amendment liberties.

Given the disquieting level of intolerance for controversial opinions and divergent points of view at American colleges these days, that isn’t all that great.

“The vast majority of students at America’s top colleges and universities surrender their free speech rights the moment they step onto campus,” according to a press release this week from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE. “In Tennessee, 88 percent of institutions restrict some amount of free speech.”

FIRE recently published a nationwide study titled, “Spotlight on Speech Codes 2019: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses.”

In the report, the Philadelphia-based group surveyed written policies pertaining to protections and restrictions on free speech at both public and private universities. The FIRE researchers concluded that nearly 90 percent of the schools they examined “maintain policies that restrict — or too easily could restrict — student and faculty expression.”

“Colleges should be a place for open debate and intellectual inquiry, but today, almost all colleges silence expression through policies that are often illiberal and, at public institutions, unconstitutional,” said Laura Beltz, FIRE’s lead author of the study.

FIRE uses a three-tiered system of rating individual schools that applies “red light,” “yellow light” or “green light” designations. A “red light” means an institution maintains “at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.” A “yellow” rating means the school enforces policies that “by virtue of their vague wording, could too easily be used to restrict protected expression.” A “green light” signifies that “a college or university’s policies do not seriously imperil speech.”

“A green light does not indicate that a school actively supports free expression,” the report notes. “It simply means that FIRE is not currently aware of any serious threats to students’ free speech rights in the policies on that campus.”

Both Middle Tennessee State University and Tennessee Tech University received yellow ratings.

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville earned a green light, making it “one of just two SEC East universities to earn FIRE’s highest rating for speech.”

Of the eight Tennessee schools FIRE rated, only Tennessee State University was hit with a red light grade.

All in all, the FIRE report’s authors say there is actually some room for optimism in the report — despite the continuing reality that “far too many colleges across the country fail to live up to their free speech obligations in policy and in practice.”

For the eleventh year in a row, the share of schools earning a red light has gone down. Last year it was above 32 percent, this year it is 28.5.

“In further good news, more and more colleges and universities continue to adopt policy statements in support of free speech modeled after the one adopted by the University of Chicago in January 2015,” the report’s executive summary observes. “As of this writing, 50 schools or faculty bodies have endorsed a version of the free speech policy statement known as the ‘Chicago Statement,’ with 14 adoptions in 2018 alone.”

During Tennessee’s 2017 state legislative session, lawmakers passed a measure called the “Campus Free Speech Protection Act.” That legislation directed public institutions across the Volunteer State to establish policies that “embrace a commitment to the freedom of speech and expression for all students and faculty.”

In a press release issued after Republican Gov. Bill Haslam signed the act into law, FIRE described it as containing “some of the country’s strongest protections for student and faculty speech on public college campuses.”

Statement from the Beacon Center of Tennessee, (Dec. 11, 2018):

Link: http://www.beacontn.org/time-to-rethink-our-approach-to-asset-forfeiture

By Branden H. Boucek

The practice of civil asset forfeiture – whereby law enforcement can confiscate a person’s property or money on a suspicion of criminal activity, leaving it to the person to establish his or her innocence – may be on rocky terrain. If the skeptical questions of the Supreme Court justices in the recently argued case of Timbs v. Indiana are any indication, civil asset forfeiture may soon be subject to the constitutional prohibition on excessive fines, putting at least some limits on the practice. Some justices were apparently unmoved by the contention that law enforcement could seize a Land Rover for speeding by 5 miles-per hour.

Civil asset forfeiture is, in addition to flying in the face of the Fifth Amendment and its prohibition of taking of property without due process, bad law enforcement. The law enforcement agency typically keeps the assets. By effectively allowing for law-enforcement to self fund, civil asset forfeiture sets up all the wrong incentives. There’s every reason to chase dollars instead of bad guys.

Imagine an investigation into an international drug cartel has been underway for years when an intercepted phone call reveals that sizable monetary assets are on the move. It isn’t difficult to imagine the pressure to succumb to short-term thinking by making a bad law enforcement decision: seize the known asset rather than wait. The problem is that arresting lower level targets compromises an investigation. It’s hard to ask cash strapped agencies under continuous pressure to do more with less. The temptation to compromise a serious, long-term investigation should not exist. Law enforcement should be funded through the regular budgetary process.

Tennessee would be wise to start thinking proactively about a new approach to seizing criminal assets. Fortunately, it is not an all–or–nothing approach between civil asset forfeiture and criminals keeping drug proceeds. We have another well–established approach. It is called criminal asset forfeiture.

Criminal asset forfeiture produces the same ultimate result: divesting the criminal of illegal gains. The difference is that criminal asset forfeiture uses the regular criminal process, and assesses the forfeiture as a penalty. Under criminal asset forfeiture, the accused can either plead guilty or ask for a jury to make the determination. In other words, this is what we are already doing to anyone accused of a crime. As pointed out above, civil asset forfeiture allows for property to be seized without anyone being charged ever.

To be sure, criminal asset forfeiture is not as quick as civil asset forfeiture. Law enforcement must wait until the proceedings resolve. And now prosecutors must add and resolve an additional charge. But all this is a small price to pay for a restoration of the Fifth Amendment.

Now is as good of a time as any to start rethinking our approach to asset forfeiture.

The Beacon Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and independent organization dedicated to providing expert empirical research and timely free market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee.

Bygone days and ways live in memories alone

Standing atop Center Hill Dam or Hurricane Bridge today, it’s easy to forget that homestead activity and rural enterprise once flourished along the hillsides and throughout river bottom lands now submerged under the lake’s expansive waterline.

But across Tennessee during the great federal dam-building decades of the 20th Century, old manners and modes of living were drowned out and washed away as reservoir waters rose behind hydroelectric impoundments that still serve as monuments to modern engineering and industrial technology.

Prior to the dam’s construction, which was completed in 1948, much of the area around the Caney Fork “was subject to intensive family-type farming of money crops, such as corn and tobacco, which involved hillside plowing with mules,” notes the Army Corps of Engineers’ Center Hill Lake Master Plan. However, since the dam’s completion, “farming in the Center Hill Lake area has steadily declined.”

Center Hill Dam under construction on the Caney Fork River in DeKalb County, 1949. (Tennessee State Library Photo Archive)

Local historians and aging residents who lived through the events recall that it was a time of gloom and upheaval for many.

“By the end of 1948, all of the homes and farms were cleared out, torn down and covered with water,” wrote the authors of “Under the Lake,” a 2016 coffee table book of historic images, remembrances and genealogy from the region prior to creation of Center Hill reservoir. “People who had lived there in their lifetime would never be able to see their homes again.”

DeKalb County historian Thomas G. Webb, who wrote a book about local history for the Memphis State University Press that was published in 1986, recalled that by the end of World War II “most of (the inhabitants) had accepted the idea that they had to leave their farms, homes, schools and churches.”

“A few, however, were bitterly opposed to moving and remained in their homes until the dam was completed and the water was literally in their front yards. Some in the Center Hill area relocated in DeKalb County, but many moved to other counties, and the county lost 4,000 people between 1940 and 1950,” Webb reported.

Rosemary Ponte of Cookeville, whose family owned property where today sits the Appalachian Center for Craft, said it pains her even now to recall that “very sad time” when families in DeKalb County were forced off their homelands.

“I still feel bad about it,” said Ponte, who was born in 1931. “They took so much more land than they needed. I just hated to see the people so displaced like that, after generations and generations of their families living there.”

Recreation an Unanticipated Boon

It may seem surprising now, with Center Hill Lake a prominent recreation destination in Middle Tennessee, but leisure and sporting activities weren’t considered important to the dam-project planners.

The Center Hill Lake Master Plan even notes that “recreation was not originally an authorized function of the project” — although surrounding lands were later acquired from property owners and “recreation facilities constructed to assure unencumbered access to the lake for the general public.”

In the beginning, though, they scoffed at the idea of recreation.

“The first few years that Center Hill Lake was backed up after the lake was there, they didn’t even want to talk about recreation,” said Carl Halfacre of Baxter, whose father worked on construction of the dam. “‘If you mentioned recreation to the Corps of Engineers, they would insult you.” They would say, “That dam is for flood control and hydroelectric power — we don’t furnish recreation.’ The Corps didn’t feel it was their job to spend millions of dollars so people could have a good time.”

Nevertheless, by the middle of the 1950s, people did indeed start showing up to fish and boat and swim on Center Hill Lake, said Halfacre, who in 2014 retired from serving as managing ranger at Edgar Evins State Park for nearly two decades. At about that time, picnic areas and campgrounds started popping up, he said.

Webb noted that some who lived in the area in fact began anticipating recreational benefits even before the dam was finished.

“Those who hoped to benefit from the increased tourist trade looked forward to the completion of the dam,” he wrote.

So if you’re one of the more than three million people who annually takes advantage or accesses Center Hill Lake’s vast recreation opportunities, you might do well to spend a moment and reflect on the reality that many people gave up homes and lifeways for the lake to exist — and many would for the rest of their years suffer broken-heartedness and resentment as a result.

“There used to be a lot more life down below the water’s surface — and it was more than just fish,” said Ria Baker, one of the authors of “Under the Lake.”