United States ex rel. TVA v. Welch
327 U.S. 546 (1946)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States ex rel. TVA v. Welch, 327 U.S. 546 (1946)

United States ex rel. Tennessee Valley Authority v. Welch

No. 528

Argued March 7, 1946

Decided March 25, 1946*

327 U.S. 546

Syllabus

Tennessee Valley Authority built a power dam creating a large reservoir, thus flooding a highway which afforded the only reasonable means of access to a large area of mountainous land constituting part of the watershed and lying between the reservoir and a national park. A new road could have been built at a cost disproportionate to its value to the public. After lengthy consideration of all public and private interests, it was agreed between the national, state, and county authorities that the best solution of the problem was for TVA to acquire all land in the isolated area and add it to the national park, making satisfactory financial adjustments with all interests, public and private, and reserving all rights required to carry out the TVA program. TVA adopted a resolution that it deemed the acquisition of the land necessary to carry out the purposes of the TVA Act. All landowners in the area sold their property voluntarily, except the six respondents here. They contested condemnation proceedings on the ground that the taking was beyond the authority conferred by §§ 4 and 25 of the TVA Act to condemn all property that TVA "deems necessary for carrying out the purposes" of the Act, which places broad responsibilities on TVA relating to navigability, flood control, reforestation, marginal lands, and agricultural and industrial development of the whole Tennessee Valley, and specifically admonishes it to cooperate with other governmental agencies, federal, state, and local, in relation to the problem of "readjustment of the population displaced by the construction of dams, the acquisition of reservoir areas, the protection of watersheds," etc.

Held:

1. The condemnation is sustained, since it was for a public purpose authorized by the Act and TVA proceeded in complete accord with the congressional policy embodied in the Act. P. 327 U. S. 552.

Page 327 U. S. 547

2. The common law rule requiring a strict construction of powers to condemn is not applicable here, because of the specific provision of § 31 that the Act shall be "liberally construed" to carry out its broad purposes. P. 327 U. S. 551.

3. In construing the Act, a court should not break one inseparable transaction into separate units, but should view the entire transaction as a single integrated effort on the part of TVA to perform its functions. Pp. 327 U. S. 552-553.

4. It is the function of Congress to decide what type of taking is for public use, and the agency authorized to do the taking may do so to the full extent of its statutory authority. P. 327 U. S. 551.

5. The provisions of the Act show a clear congressional purpose to grant TVA all power needed to acquire by purchase or condemnation lands which it deems necessary for carrying out the purposes of the Act. P. 327 U. S. 554.

6. Neither the fact that TVA wanted to prevent a waste of public funds nor that it intended to cooperate with the National Park Service detracted from its power to condemn. P. 327 U. S. 554.

150 F.2d 613 reversed.

The United States instituted proceedings under the Tennessee Valley Authority Act to condemn certain land. The District Court dismissed the petition. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 150 F.2d 613. This Court granted certiorari. 326 U.S. 714. Reversed, p. 327 U. S. 555.

Page 327 U. S. 548

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