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Tellico Reservoir
Location of Tellico Reservoir in Tennessee, USA.
Location of Tellico Reservoir in Tennessee, USA.
Tellico Reservoir
Location in Tennessee
Location of Tellico Reservoir in Tennessee, USA.
Location of Tellico Reservoir in Tennessee, USA.
Tellico Reservoir
Location in the United States
Location Loudon / Monroe counties, Tennessee, United States
Coordinates 35°46′40″N 84°15′35″W / 35.777778°N 84.259722°W / 35.777778; -84.259722
Type reservoir
Basin countries United States

Tellico Reservoir, also known as Tellico Lake, is a reservoir in Tennessee, created by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1979 upon the completion of Tellico Dam. The dam impounds the Little Tennessee River and the lower Tellico River. While TVA is careful to refer to its artificial lakes as reservoirs (such as "Tellico Reservoir"), common usage tends to refer to the reservoir as "Tellico Lake". The lake is approximately 16,000 acres in surface area and provides 357 miles of shoreline.

Tellico Reservoir was to be created as the last major dam and reservoir project of the TVA. Planning had begun for the project in the 1960s, when the agency began acquiring properties that had to be vacated prior to flooding of a large area subject to inundation. The National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) of 1970 provided for agencies to assess the environmental effects of their projects prior to undertaking them.

Opponents of the dam project, who were concerned about its effects on the habitat of the valley, filed suit for an environmental impact assessment to be done, although the project was already underway when NEPA was passed. An endangered species, the snail darter, was discovered and some people wanted construction of the dam to be halted. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 provided for protection of species threatened with extinction under federal projects.

The snail darter controversy generated reactions on both sides, and litigation in the case reached the Supreme Court, under the Endangered Species Act. It ruled that the project was not exempted although it had been started prior to passage of the act. Congress passed a law to specifically exempt the Tellico Dam project from application of the Endangered Species Act, in order to complete the project. The dam was completed, 33 miles of river fed the lake, and Tellico Reservoir was created.

Creation of the reservoir meant that several communities in the valley had to be abandoned and residents relocated. In addition, the waters inundated several Native American sites, including the historically significant Cherokee Nation town sites of Chota and Tanasi. The Bat Creek inscription was discovered adjacent to this lake.

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