Advocates for the Oak Ridge Reservation

Advocates for the Oak Ridge Reservation (AFORR) is a locally-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supporting the preservation of the natural resources of the Department of Energy's 20,000-plus-acre Oak Ridge Reservation Research Park—for the long-term benefit of DOE, the local community, and national and international interests.

Viewed from space, the Oak Ridge Reservation is a nearly solid island of forest surrounded by human development. Satellite-image map of ORR land cover

We maintain that the Oak Ridge Reservation has substantial value for:

For details, please: For more information about AFORR, or if you would like to join us, please:

The future of the Oak Ridge Reservation will be determined largely by government officials at the local, state, and national levels. Some of the key public officials are listed on our contacts page. Several of our past letters to officials are indexed on the letters page.



Upcoming Events

  • November 21, 2013 — Advocates for the Oak Ridge Reservation (AFORR) and American Society of Mechanical Engineers (Oak Ridge Section) present

    Kent Williams, retired distinguished ORNL staff member and consultant on nuclear fuel cycle technical and economic issues

    Will Small Modular Reactors (SMRS) Rejuvenate Nuclear Power?

    Before the start of the presentation, a few minutes are set aside for the formalities of AFORR's Annual Meeting.

    Thursday, November 21, 7:00 PM
    Fellowship Hall
    First Presbyterian Church

    1403 Oak Ridge Turnpike
    Oak Ridge, TN

    The public is invited.

    For more information about the upcoming meeting, please contact Frank Hensley (865-250-1158, fwhensley@aol.com).

Past Events

  • April 25, 2013 — Advocates for the Oak Ridge Reservation (AFORR) and Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning (TCWP) present

    Anne Davis, Managing Attorney, Nashville Office of the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) on

    SELC's Work in Tennessee

    Thursday, April 25, 7:00 PM
    Oak Ridge Civic Center

    Social Room
    1051 Oak Ridge Turnpike
    Oak Ridge, TN

    For more information call 865-583-3967 or email sandra@sandrakgoss.com.



  • April 27, 2013 — Bird nature walk — East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) Ponds and Vicinity

    Saturday, April 27, 7:00 AM to 10:30 AM
    Reservations required. See Details: Spring 2013 Nature Walks Schedule



  • June 2, 2013 — Reptiles and amphibians inventory — Solway Bend

    Sunday, June 2, 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM
    Reservations required. See Details: Spring 2013 Nature Walks Schedule



  • June 8, 2013 — Wetland plants nature walk — East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) Ponds

    Saturday, June 8, 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM
    Reservations required. See Details: Spring 2013 Nature Walks Schedule



  • February 23, 2013 — Winter astronomy, falconry demo, and American woodcock "night walk" — Freels Bend

    Saturday, February 23, 5:30 PM to 9:00 PM
    (Sunday, February 24 if inclement weather)
    Reservations required. See Details: Spring 2013 Nature Walks Schedule



  • January 10, 2013 — Joint meeting of Advocates for the Oak Ridge Reservation (AFORR) and the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association (ORHPA)

    Larry Kelly, Manager of DOE's Oak Ridge Office, will be the featured speaker.

    Thursday, January 10, 7:00 PM
    Midtown Community Center (Wildcat Den)

    102 Robertsville Road, Oak Ridge, TN
    (corner of Oak Ridge Turnpike and Robertsville Road)

    Kelly, who was named manager of the DOE Oak Ridge Office in July 2012, will speak on the topic Managing resources on the Oak Ridge Reservation in a changing environment.

    Kelly holds a chemical engineering degree from the University of Mississippi and an MBA degree from the University of Tennessee. Before being named to his current position, he had worked for DOE Oak Ridge for 21 years and before that was with TVA. One of his current responsibilites is management of the Oak Ridge Reservation, including addressing cross-cutting issues and activities among DOE programs and organizations.

    Both of the sponsoring groups are local citizen-led nonprofit organizations with missions of preserving, enhancing, and fostering appreciation of and community benefits from elements of Oak Ridge's unique heritage. AFORR's main focus is on the natural resources and other assets of the DOE Oak Ridge Reservation, while ORHPA focuses on Oak Ridge's history and its built environment. They hope this meeting will provide an opportunity for their members to get acquainted with Kelly, as well as to help him learn about their interests in the DOE-managed resources that he is responsible for as manager of the Oak Ridge Office.

    The public is invited and encouraged to participate in the discussion.

    Light refreshments will be available.

    For more information about the upcoming meeting, contact Frank Hensley at 865-250-1158.

  • For more information about the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association, which is co-sponsoring this meeting, visit its website at www.orhpa.org.



  • November 15, 2011 — Opportunities for the National Park Service in East Tennessee

    Niki Nicholas, will be the featured speaker at AFORR's Annual Meeting.

    Tuesday, November 15, 7:30 PM
    Midtown Community Center (Wildcat Den)

    102 Robertsville Road, Oak Ridge, TN
    (corner of Oak Ridge Turnpike and Robertsville Road)

    Niki Nicholas became the Superintendent of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in Kentucky and Tennessee and Obed Wild and Scenic River in Tennessee this year. Prior to that appointment, Nicholas served as the Chief of Resources Management and Science at Yosemite National Park in California for seven years and Senior Manager for Environmental Impact Reduction Technologies at the Tennessee Valley Authority. Thus Superintendent Nicholas has both strong knowledge of the resource management and familiarity of the Southeast Region.

    Superintendent Nicholas is an ideal person to speak about the proposed Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which will be located in Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, NM, and Hanford, WA. The new historical park would provide an opportunity to interpret and discuss an incredibly important piece of American and world history. It will allow contemporary society to better understand the complex and difficult decision to use the bomb. Like the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area and the Obed Wild and Scenic River, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park would provide an opportunity for visitors to experience an important part of America and also stimulate local economies.

    Superintendent Nicholas understands the need to preserve natural and cultural resources while allowing for education and enjoyment by park visitors. National Park Service Southeast Regional Director David Vela has said, "she knows and values the importance of working with local communities to create awareness and support."

    The public is invited.

    For more information about the upcoming meeting, please contact:
    Bill Johnston (865-386-1365, bill.johnston22@comcast.net or
    Frank Hensley (865-250-1158, fwhensley@aol.com.



Nature Walks Spring 2011

Six free nature walks are scheduled this spring in various areas of the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge Reservation.

As 2011 has been declared the International Year of Forests by the United Nations General Assembly, this spring's walks will include information regarding local efforts to sustainably manage and conserve the reservation's resources - such as forests - and efforts to protect them from threats, such as invasive plants. Opportunities to explore several different areas of the Oak Ridge Reservation are being sponsored by the Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park.

Different walks have various limits on number of participants. Children are welcome to participate, but children under 10 are not permitted on the June 11 walk. No pets please. Participants should plan to wear layered clothing, sturdy shoes and bring bug spray and water.

Reservations must be made in advance by noon the Thursday prior to each walk by contacting Lana McDonald at 865-574-7323 (mcdonaldlk@ornl.gov).

If inclement weather forces cancellation of a walk, it will be posted two hours prior to the scheduled start on ORNL's Information Line at 865-574-9836.

More information about the walks is available by contacting Trent Jett at 865-574-9188 (jettrt@ornl.gov) or Neil Giffen 865-241-9421 (giffennr1@ornl.gov).

  • Saturday, April 23, 2011 — Wildflower walk at East Fork Ridge Old Growth Forest.
    Group will meet at 9 a.m. at the West Guardhouse along Oak Ridge Turnpike for the three-hour walk over one to two miles. Twenty participants is the limit.

  • Saturday, April 30, 2011 — Bird walk in the Freels Bend area.
    Group will meet at 7 a.m. in the ORISE parking lot at the Bethel Valley-Pumphouse intersection. This walk will last until 10:30 a.m. The walk is between one and two miles along a dirt road. Binoculars and a field guide are recommended. The tour limit is 25.

  • Saturday, May 7, 2011 — Bird walk along Poplar Creek and East Poplar Creek in the vicinity of the East Tennessee Technology Park Beaver Pond.
    Group will meet at 7 a.m. at the West Guardhouse for the 3½-hour walk over mostly level dirt roads. Binoculars and a field guide are recommended. The tour limit is 25.

  • Sunday, June 5, 2011 — Animal inventories along Solway Bend.
    Group will meet at 1:30 p.m. at the Bethel Valley-Pumphouse intersection for the start of the three-hour walk. Fifteen is the participant limit.
    Children—accompanied by an adult—are particularly encouraged to participate in this walk.

  • Saturday, June 11, 2011 — Invasive plants studied at various locations on the reservation.
    The three-hour activity begins at 9 a.m. at the West Guardhouse. Children under 10 are not permitted on this walk. A short presentation on invasive plants will precede the walk. The tour limit is 20.



  • Sunday, April 10, 2011 — Wildflower walk at Rainy Knob on Freels Bend.
    Group will meet at 1:30 p.m. at the south parking lot of the Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education (ORISE) building located at the intersection of Bethel Valley and Pumphouse roads. The walk will conclude at 4:30 p.m. The walk will be off trail, but not overly steep terrain. The tour is limited to 20 people



  • December 7, 2010 — The Role of Environmental and Conservation Planning in Industrial Development

    Public panel discussion with Lawrence Young, President of CROET, Dr. David Buehler, Professor of Wildlife Science in the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries at the University of Tennessee, Douglas Colcalsure, representing Greenways Oak Ridge, and Ellen Smith, Vice President of AFORR,
    on the occasion of AFORR's annual meeting,

    Tuesday, December 7, 7:00 PM
    Midtown Community Center (Wildcat Den)

    102 Robertsville Road, Oak Ridge, TN

    The panel discussion will focus on the challenges and benefits of searching for more sustainable approaches to development and on the value of the perpetual preservation of the 50-acre land gift from Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee (CROET).

    Ellen Smith will highlight the benefits of conservation via partnering and will share the history of efforts to preserve this parcel,

    Lawrence Young will describe the parcel and developers' perspectives on benefits of conservation,

    David Buehler will discuss the broad-scale environmental benefits of conservation, and

    Douglas Colcalsure will discuss the recreational benefits of preserving this parcel.

    Advocates for the Oak Ridge Reservation (AFORR) has been working for the past ten years to increase awareness of the importance of the Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR). We encourage and support multiple uses of the reservation that contribute to growth and economic stability, while at the same time respecting its natural and scientific resources.

    The public is invited and encouraged to participate in the discussion.

    Light refreshments will be served at the close of the discussion.

    For more Information contact Frank Hensley at 865-250-1158.



  • November 17, 2010 — Conveyance & Dedication of Horizon Center Area 4 to Conservation

    On November 17, the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee (CROET) will formally donate 50 acres of the East Tennessee Technology Park's Horizon Center to the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation for perpetual conservation. This land will provide green space and continue a network of greenway trails in the City of Oak Ridge

    "We have worked diligently with many partners to ensure this valuable piece of land is preserved for the people of Oak Ridge, Roane County and Tennessee," said Lawrence Young, president and CEO of CROET. "We are proud to not only have established a one-of-a-kind technology park, but while doing so, to have left a tremendous amount of green space."

    The land donation was made possible through the cooperation of the U.S. Department of Energy, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Horizon Center Board of Directors, Advocates for the Oak Ridge Reservation and the Tennessee Greenways Foundation.

    Oak Ridger article about the event

    Knoxville News Sentinel article with KnoxNews video about the event



  • January 28, 2010 — Forever Green Tennessee

    Public lecture by Kathleen Williams, President and Executive Director of the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation,
    on the occasion of AFORR's annual meeting,

    Thursday, January 28, 7:00 PM
    Midtown Community Center (Wildcat Den)

    102 Robertsville Road, Oak Ridge, TN

    Kathleen Williams' presentation will highlight the need to restore the Tennessee Real Estate Transfer Tax which, in the past, has provided funding for acquisition of lands of environmental and scenic importance. In 2003, 2008, and 2009, funds generated by the transfer tax was re-directed to help mitigate State budget shortfalls. Public support is needed to ensure that this conservation funding mechanism is reinstated this year. The transfer tax generates approximately $20 million per year to help keep Tennessee green and beautiful.

    Tourism is the second largest industry in Tennessee, employing 181,000 people and contributing 13.4 billion to our economy and $1 billion to our local sales tax revenues. One of the top tourist attractions in Tennessee are our State Parks and it is short-sighted not to reinstate this land acquisition program in order to expand the environmental tourism industry. This fund is needed to save incredible scenic attractions that are at risk, including exceptional tracts at Rocky Fork, Bluffs at Scott's Gulf, Cummins Falls, The Big Trees at Virgin Falls, The Big Trees at Warner Parks, Mississippi River Bluffs, The Fiery Gizzard Trail, Segments of the Cumberland Trail, Short Mountain, and more. This tax represents only 0.07 percent of Tennessee's $29 billion budget. Shamefully, Tennessee ranks 50th nationwide in environmental spending.

    Kathleen Williams has served as President and Executive Director of the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation since 1997. At the foundation she launched "State Park Connections", a small grants program that has awarded more than 164 small grants totaling $267,704. Her work through the Foundation has helped preserve over 10,000 acres that conserve beautiful Tennessee natural resources. Under her leadership, the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation was recognized by the Tennessee Conservation League and the National Wildlife Federation as the 2003 Conservation Organization of the Year and the 1999 Conservation Educator of the Year. In addition Kathleen received the 2004 Mack S. Prichard Award from the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club and was named the1996 Land Conservationist of the year and the 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award from Greenways for Nashville.

    Prior to her work at the Foundation, Kathleen was the Director of Tennessee Greenways Program for The Conservation Fund from 1995-1998. In this capacity she initiated greenway projects across the state and developed the Governor's Bicentennial Greenways Program. Kathleen successfully lobbied for the "State and Local Parks and Recreation Partnership Act of 1991", which resulted in more than $15 million per year for state parks, state forests, city and county parks, wetlands, and cleaner water. Because of this funding bill, over 240,000 acres have been set aside in Tennessee for land conservation.

    For more Information contact Frank Hensley at 865-250-1158.



  • December 9, 2008 — What's So Special About the Oak Ridge Reservation?

    Public lecture by Pat Parr, Natural Resources Manager of Oak Ridge National Laboratory,
    on the occasion of AFORR's annual meeting,

    Tuesday, December 9, 7:00 PM
    Fellowship Hall of the First Presbyterian Church
    1051 Oak Ridge Turnpike
    (corner of Lafayette Drive and Oak Ridge Turnpike)

    It is not a national secret. But most residents of our area—and even many of those who work on the Reservation—know less about the extraordinary values and treasures of the Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR) than they do about what was top secret during the Manhattan Project!

    Pat Parr will discuss the unique assets and the national and international significance of the Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park, which still makes up a large part of the ORR. The park is one of only seven National Environmental Research Parks.

    Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park's international recognition as a unit of the Southern Appalachian Biosphere Reserve. Its average biodiversity per acre is even higher than that of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, by some accounts.

    Pat Parr graduated from Oak Ridge High School. She received her BS in biology from Tennessee Wesleyan College and her MS in ecology from University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Pat is past president of the Association of Southeastern Biologists and of the Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council. Currently she chairs the Executive Committee of the Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere Cooperative. Pat's daughter Elizabeth is a freshman at East Tennessee State University and her son Bobby is completing law school at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

    Admission is free and the public is invited. Light refreshments will be available. For additional information call Frank Hensley at 865-250-1158.



  • November 3 — ORO NEPA Workshop

    The U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge Operations (ORO) has offered to Advocates for the Oak Ridge Reservation to hold a free public workshop on how ORO has been implementing the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

    This NEPA Workshop now has been scheduled for

    Monday, November 3, 2008
    4:00-7:00 PM
    at the DOE Information Center
    475 Oak Ridge Turnpike


    (near the former east end Food City store).
    Seating will be limited and on a first-come-first-served basis.

    To sign up, please call 865-576-0334.

    This is ORO's response to AFORR's and citizens' concerns about existing and proposed land transfers of Reservation land.

    NEPA is the law that requires federal agencies to carefully assess the potential environmental impacts of their activities and proposed actions. NEPA also provides opportunities for citizens to help in the fact-finding process, comment on the methods and quality of assessments, and voice their opinions on the significance of impacts. Thus, the purpose of NEPA is to assure that the agencies make informed decisions that will avoid or adequately mitigate negative impacts and that their decisions are transparent to the public.

    We need smart people to learn about ORO's interpretation of NEPA law and what actions trigger a need for an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). We need YOU.

    It has been AFORR's view that preparation of a reservation-wide Land Use Plan is a necessity to prepare and position the ORO to take advantage of future opportunities to participate in energy and climate-related research while assuring that the unique public values of the Reservation are not diminished.

    Current practices lack a holistic view of the Reservation. Piecemeal decisions have been made without consideration of past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future impacts. Habitat fragmentation is one of the most serious and constant threats to the Reservation. Of the 58,575 acres of land that were originally expropriated for the Manhattan Project only about 20,000 acres remain in a relatively undisturbed state.

    Please join us for this important meeting.

    *** DRAFT AGENDA FOR ORO NEPA WORKSHOP, November 3, 2008 ***

    4:00 to 4:30 pm - Poster Session and "Meet & Greet"
    4:30 to 5:00 pm - How Oak Ridge Does NEPA (Gary Hartman)
    5:00 to 5:30 pm - Oak Ridge Land Use Strategies: Mission-related Work (Gary Hartman) and West End Activities (Sue Cange)
    5:30 to 5:45 pm - Break
    5:45 to 7:00 pm - Questions & Answers and Follow-up Discussion



hotItems that deserve our attention

  • Three Bend Area—AFORR has an exciting vision for the future. After months of hearing rumblings about developers' plans (quietly supported by city officials) to build high-priced lakefront residential developments on Solway Bend (the easternmost of the "three bends" that former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson dedicated "forever" to conservation in 1999) and in view of DOE's statements that the agency would consider proposals for management changes at the Three Bend Area only if the community came forth with a consensus proposal, in May 2006 AFORR convened a meeting of various groups with conservation-related interests in the area to share information and perspectives on this area's values and its future.

    As we reported in letters to our members and to various regional organizations, meeting participants affirmed the importance of (1) maintaining the entire Three Bend area (including Solway Bend) as public land and (2) conducting and making use of comprehensive planning for the ORR, considering all of the regional, national, and global values the area supports. AFORR and the other meeting participants concluded that residential development would be incompatible with the highly valued uses and potential uses of this resource.

  • DOE and the state closed the deal on the Black Oak Ridge Conservation Easement. In April 2005 DOE and the State of Tennessee finally completed arrangements to place over 3000 acres of land on the western end of the Oak Ridge Reservation into state management under a conservation easement as partial compensation for "natural resource damages" resulting from contamination of the Clinch River by federal government activities in Oak Ridge. (See the news story in The Oak Ridger.) The plan had been announced to great fanfare in December 2002, and AFORR was anxious to see it become reality. See our February 2003 newsletter for news of the original announcement and read Cathey Daniels' feature article about the tract, from the August 26, 2003, Oak Ridger.

    The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is expected to take the lead role in managing this land. TDEC held a public meeting in July 2003 to solicit comments plans for managing the area. Written comments were accepted, too. This was not a formal comment process, so there was no deadline for commenting. AFORR's written comments called for this land to be managed for conservation and passive recreation (including hiking, nature study, and hunting), with no motorized vehicles allowed in the area. It also is important to avoid ecological fragmentation. This forested tract provides valuable breeding habitat for songbirds that nest only in the forest interior well away from cleared areas and meadows. New roads and clearings that fragment the forest could diminish the land's value for these birds.

    See our November 2003 newsletter for an update on the status of this area.

  • TDEC proposes designating much of the ORR as a state natural area. The Tennessee Division of Natural Heritage (part of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation) has requested that DOE allow designation of most of the Oak Ridge Reservation (20,000 acres) as a state natural area and collaborate with the State on significant natural resource initiatives. See a map and description of the area proposed for natural area designation.

  • At last, a planning process! On August 29, 2001, DOE announced the initiation of a comprehensive planning process for the Oak Ridge Reservation. Stakeholders, including AFORR, will have an important role. AFORR was represented on a focus group that met from the fall of 2001 until the fall of 2002. Read news about the announcement and the schedule of focus group meetings.
    In anticipation of the announcement, we compiled a summary of AFORR's concepts for an ORR land use planning process. DOE has not adopted all of our concepts. Although we were cautiously optimistic about the process that was announced, we wrote to DOE to express some serious concerns about the initial efforts. Our November 6, 2001, meeting focused on this process.

  • Pine Ridge denuded and decapitated! In July 2001 Oak Ridgers and area residents were surprised and upset to see clear-cutting and extensive land-clearing on what once was a beautiful wooded ridge overlooking the heart of the city. Our horror was compounded when a heavy rainstorm resulted in massive mudslides from the slopes of the ridge, depositing mud and debris on surrounding streets and business properties. The developer had cleared 100 acres of steeply sloping land without installing stormwater and sediment control structures or obtaining the required environmental permits from the State of Tennessee Department of Enviroment and Conservation. He had not yet obtained city approval for his development plan, but claimed to have all necessary city permits to continue with plans to flatten out the top of Pine Ridge (removing up to 70 feet of rock and soil, to be deposited in adjacent valleys) in order to build industrial buildings on the resulting plateau.

    This land was at one time part of the federal Oak Ridge Reservation. It was transferred to the city for economic development in about 1968, as part of the parcel that became the Union Valley Industrial Park. This history and the city's role in this disaster (the city sold the land to this developer and has not acted to prevent the unfolding environmental nightmare) make it doubtful that the city would be an effective steward of natural resources present on any other Reservation lands that might be transferred for economic development.

    A citizen petition drive collected over 1400 signatures urging the City Council to reverse the sale of the 70 acres on Pine Ridge and to turn the land into a public park, but the city has decided to let the development continue. For more information about the Pine Ridge situation, click here.

  • $54 an acre?!?! Click here for the appalling story of DOE's cut-rate sale of the Boeing floodplain strip.

  • AFORR and allies ask DOE to stop making piecemeal land transfers. On Wednesday, January 17, 2001, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center wrote to Leah Dever, Manager of DOE Oak Ridge Operations, on behalf of AFORR and the Tennessee Conservation League, asking DOE to "refrain from making individual land use decisions that would effectively dispose of separate, discrete parcels of the Oak Ridge Reservation prior to completing a comprehensive environmental impact statement." For details, read SELC's press release and the local press coverage of this initiative and some of the initial reaction to it.

    On January 30 DOE announced its decision to transfer the Boeing floodplain strip, but said they would defer action on ED-3. On February 7, the agency said it would prepare an EIS on ORR land use, then cancelled plans for a formal announcement. The following day DOE announced that Leah Dever was being sent to DOE headquarters for a special 90-day assignment. She returned in June, and the planning process began at the end of August. See news reports for details on these developments.

  • DOE public meeting on Oak Ridge Reservation land use planning. AFORR has repeatedly asked DOE ORO to conduct comprehensive land use planning and to involve the public in the process. ORO held a long-awaited public meeting on this subject on Tuesday, January 30, 2001. Judging from the loud applause when people spoke in support of conservation and the ORR, our members and other supporters of protecting the Reservation were in the majority of the nearly 300 people who attended. This meeting was supposed to start a planning process, but we didn't learn whether DOE would agree to our request to prepare an EIS on ORR land use. DOE Oak Ridge Operations Manager Leah Dever delivered good news and bad news at the meeting. The good news was that DOE is deferring the ED-3 proposal while taking a broader look at ORR land use. The bad news was that she would sign a FONSI (finding of no significant impact) to allow the Boeing floodplain strip to be sold to developers.
    Read newspaper accounts and other reports about the meeting and subsequent events.

  • City of Oak Ridge has plans for DOE lands The Oak Ridge City Council held a public hearing on a proposal to apply local land-use plans and zoning to much of the Oak Ridge Reservation at its March 5, 2001 meeting. The Council voted to postpone action indefinitely (see newspaper story).

    Meanwhile, the City's initiative to gain additional monetary compensation for DOE-related impacts seems to be turning into just another attempt to get DOE land. In a story ("Conflict of interest concerns group seeking city aid") published April 3, 2001, The Oak Ridger reports that the law firm the city is hiring for this initiative "specifically plans to look for ways to move DOE-owned property into 'private or at least taxable hands.'"

    The Oak Ridge Regional Planning Commission worked for several months on a proposed land use and zoning plan for the "West End" of the city. The "West End" is almost entirely federally owned. Included are most of the Roane County portion of the Oak Ridge Reservation north of Bethel Valley Road—the K-25 Site, ED-1, ED-3, the Boeing property, and the former Clinch River Breeder Reactor Site are in this area (see reference map). The Planning Commission proposed land use designations (such as industrial, residential, and open space) and specific zones (such as Industrial-2 and Residential-1-A) for all lands in this area. This proposal was made because the Planning Commission assumes that this land will soon move into private hands—and that all of it will be available for development. It is unusual to try to apply local zoning to federal land, since the federal government is not subject to state and local planning and zoning jurisdiction. DOE did not participate in preliminary discussions of this proposal, although the agency was invited.

    Some AFORR members attended Planning Commission subcommittee meetings about this scheme. Our members pointed out some of the values of ORR land and questioned the legitimacy of the effort to assert local zoning authority for public lands that are not subject to this authority, are not for sale (as far as we know!), and about which the local planners had little information (other than topography and road/utility infrastructure). AFORR opposes the sale or lease of any additional ORR land for private development. We are concerned that the City's zoning plan is part of a strategy to force the release of additional land for development. Instead of letting prospective developers get away with this trick, AFORR continues to seek a federally directed land planning process in which the interests of all stakeholders are represented and in which the environmental conditions and values of Reservation lands are fully considered.

  • An Interstate-class highway across the ORR?!?! A few years ago, the Tennessee Department of Transportation proposed routing its proposed I-40/75 Knoxville bypass through Bethel Valley—right through the heart of the ORR—not to mention Oak Ridge National Laboratory. DOE gave TDOT a long list of reasons why this was a bad idea. Later, TDOT came back with several candidate routes, including a "blue route" configuration that would slash across the western part of the Reservation. Again, DOE provided a list of reasons why this area should be avoided, and TDOT revised the "blue route" alternative to completely avoid Oak Ridge and the federal reservation (for details, see the TDOT conceptual map or a citizen group's detailed map of the alternative routes for the bypass). TDOT and its contractors conducted more detailed investigations of the alternative route corridors and issued an environmental impact statement for the bypass.

    In the spring of 2001, state legislators from our region were suggesting that the blue route should cross the Oak Ridge Reservation after all—to reduce impacts to rural Roane County residents and to enhance the development value of land in and near west Oak Ridge.  Subsequently, the "orange route", which would not affect the ORR, was selected for this project, but plans might change again before the road is actually built.

  • Three Bend Area announcement. In January 2001—more than 18 months after the announcement that DOE was creating the 3000-acre Three Bend Scenic and Wildlife Management Refuge Area on the ORR—the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) signed an agreement with DOE/ORO. Our understanding is that the agreement is for five years with expectation of continuation—but who knows what might happen with the new administration. The area is to be managed under a wildlife management plan provided by TWRA. TWRA has more authority in this area than it does over other ORR areas under the previously existing arrangement between DOE and TWRA for the Oak Ridge Wildlife Management Area.

    Read our updated information sheet about the Three Bend initiative, and read DOE's June 1999 press release announcing the Three Bend Scenic and Wildlife Management Refuge Area.

    Thank DOE for establishing the Three Bend Area and say that you want the arrangement made permanent, as promised by former Secretary Bill Richardson. We continue to hear rumblings that local development interests expect DOE to release all or part of this area for residential development after the current TWRA agreement expires.

  • Parcel ED-3. In February 2000 DOE released a draft environmental assessment on the proposed leasing (for development) of Parcel ED-3. Following a lot of public comment, DOE completely revised the EA and published it for public comment in the fall. AFORR urged our public officials to withdraw the proposal. On January 30, 2001, DOE ORO Manager Leah Dever announced that this proposal was being "put on pause" while DOE puts it "in context with its vision" for the ORR. This is only a temporary reprieve—we know that the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee (CROET) is exerting tremendous political pressure on DOE to give CROET control of this land for development.

    AFORR's April 11, 2000 meeting was about the original proposal to lease ED-3. We compiled a short list of concerns about that original proposal and sent a comment letter to DOE. In November we sent a letter and comments on the final EA. Also see AFORR's announcement of the 9/29/99 meeting about this proposal and DOE's map (warning: large file) of the affected area.

  • Boeing Tract Shoreline. In November 2000, DOE published a draft environmental assessment about a proposal to transfer 182 acres of Clinch River floodplain lands in the Campbell Bend area (west of the K-25 Site) to the owner of the adjacent inland property. The inland parcel (called Segment O) used to be part of the Oak Ridge Reservation, but was sold to the Boeing Company in the late 1980s for a missile project that was later cancelled.

    Boeing arranged to sell this tract to a developer that is planning a major residential/commercial/industrial development, but the sale was "on hold" pending DOE's decision on the shoreline tract. DOE announced that it intended to convey the floodplain strip to the developer in order to avoid a "situation which would result in an uneconomic encumbrance or devalued use of the Boeing parcel."

    On February 1, 2001, Ms. Dever signed a "finding of no significant impact" (FONSI) on the proposal to sell the floodplain strip for development, clearing the way for the land to be sold in spite of numerous environmental concerns raised by AFORR and others.

    On February 6, DOE sold the floodplain strip to the developer for the bargain-basement price of $54 an acre—5 miles of lake frontage for less than 40 cents a foot! Allegedly this was the appraised fair market value, but Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Frank Munger has discovered that no one can produce documentation of the appraisal. This is appalling, but unfortunately we think it is just one case among many where DOE has placed private interests ahead of the public interest and has ignored environmental concerns in its management of Oak Ridge Reservation land. Furthermore, it contributes to the piecemeal dismantlement of the ORR and the Oak Ridge Environmental Research Park.

    The floodplain strip was part of the National Environmental Research Park. It includes 69 acres of wetlands and supports several state-listed threatened and endangered plant species. The Tennessee Valley Authority had formally asked DOE to convey the floodplain tract back to TVA in order to protect the valuable riparian zone. The EA described transfer to TVA as an alternative to its proposed action, but DOE did not invite TVA to participate in the EA preparation.

    The prospective developers told DOE that they would leave the floodplain strip "virtually undeveloped," but that they might want to clear some vegetation and erect buildings, docks, walking trails, and a marina. These developments could have significant impacts, but in fact there would be few restrictions on floodplain development once the developer owns the land, and DOE did not get any assurance that the developers will not change their plans after they get control of the land. (TVA could limit construction of docks, marinas, and other shore structures, and it could place restrictions on other construction that could affect flood control. TVA has only limited authority to restrict vegetation removal and similar activities on privately owned land.)

    TVA informed the developer and DOE that the agency would make any shoreline construction permits conditional on certain restrictions on development, but the developer is likely to pressure TVA to relax these conditions—as many lakeshore landowners do.

    It is clear that the proposed development will not happen without the floodplain—otherwise the sale of the upland property would not have been on hold pending the floodplain transfer. Also, the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce rallied business interests to urge DOE to give the developer control over the floodplain, demonstrating to us that the floodplain was considered a critical part of the proposed development.

    The EA was not prepared by DOE or an independent contractor to DOE, but by a contractor working for the prospective developer. DOE's only public meeting on the EA was held during the day on Tuesday, November 14, 2000, at the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce, which urged its members to attend to support the proposed development.

    AFORR submitted extensive comments on the draft EA. We also commented on the draft floodplain/wetland statement of findings for this proposal published in the Federal Register on December 4, 2000. The statement of findings said "some minor, short-term impacts could occur due to limited, proposed construction on the Floodplain Strip and potential development on the adjacent Boeing Property" but that "based on the limited planned improvements in the Floodplain Strip ... under any alternative evaluated, DOE does not believe there would be any hazards to the public or property from flooding, nor would the activities jeopardize the wetlands' survival, quality, and natural beneficial values." This analysis suffers from the same fundamental errors as the draft EA—DOE took the developers at their word. The final EA had few changes from the draft, and it paid only brief lip service to comments from AFORR, TVA, and others.

    Additional information on the Boeing site, floodplain, and development proposal.

  • ORNL Land and Facilities Plan. AFORR submitted comments on this draft document, which addresses current and future land use on that portion of the ORR that is in the Oak Ridge National Laboratory area of responsibility.

  • Knoxville News Sentinel outdoor editor Bob Hodge pokes a satirical pen at DOE's management of the ORR. Read the column, "Oak Ridge's space project: Selling WMA land" from the January 21, 2001 News Sentinel.

  • Executive Order on Protection of Migratory Birds. One of President Clinton's acts in his final days in office was the issuance of an Executive Order that defines the responsibilities of federal government agencies to help the United States meet its international treaty obligations for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats. This Executive Order is related to one of the principal values of the Oak Ridge Reservation, which provides important nesting habitat for a number of migratory birds (such as the wood thrush) that are protected under the treaty and are considered "species of concern."

  • Frank Munger supports protection for the ORR. The Knoxville News-Sentinel's veteran reporter for the DOE/Oak Ridge beat published an editorial stating his personal support for maintaining the Oak Ridge Reservation for environmental research. Read "A precious resource could be lost forever," published November 15, 2000.

  • DOE Land Transfer Initiatives. Two announcements by DOE in 2000 suggested that the agency is accelerating the pace of selling DOE land. Read all about it. Meanwhile, DOE's current strategic plan does not mention the role of National Environmental Research Parks in DOE's science mission. We think this makes these lands more vulnerable to being sold. More about the DOE strategic plan.

Note: Several items on this page refer to DOE documents issued for public review. To help ORR supporters participate in public comment opportunities, we've assembled some information on obtaining copies of DOE environmental documents in Oak Ridge.

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  Last revised: April 10, 2011