Modern Marvels The Tennessee Valley Authority

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Bowmaster: "This was totally new: to develop an entire river in order to get the most you could out of that river. And our job was to get the most out first for navigation, second for flood control and third for power. You could build a system to do any one of those three, or you could do two of the three. But to do three of them, and balance them out economically, that was the trick."

TVA planners meeting around table and point to map

NARRATOR: To solve the problem, TVA would have to think big. And only an agency with power over an entire river could do what planners were about to propose.


The main stem of the Tennessee would get ten low dams for navigation. The tributaries would get 25 high dams to control flooding and generate power. It was a unified approach to corral water high in the mountains, and carefully release it like a gentle wave. With 35 dams in all, the TVA would be the largest water-control system on earth.

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