An earlier project for damming the Tennessee River at Muscle Shoals, Alabama had ended up ‘a muscle-bound white elephant’. So President Roosevelt was treading vexatious territory when he called upon Congress to create ‘a corporate clothed with the power of government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of private enterprise’. The TVA was an emblematic New Deal Initiative, setting out to achieve the social and economic transformation of one of the Union’s most poverty-stricken regions in the depths of the Great Depression. Diseases such as malaria, pellagra and dysentery were endemic, soils exhausted and eroded, forests wantonly depleted. The aim was an integrated solution to these ills, and to a great extent this was achieved. Dams for hydroelectric power generation enabled electrification of the valley, and funded a range of development and educational projects. The TVA constructed 16 dams and a steam plant between 1933 and 1944 and during World War II was able to meet the huge surge in demand for electricity from the Aluminum Company of America.
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