chapter  6
19 Pages

Legal Considerations

ByRoyal C. Gardner

In the 1978 case of Tennessee Valley Authority vs Hill,2 the US Supreme Court wrestled with the economic impact of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The TVA’s Tellico Dam and Reservoir Project would inundate the lower reaches of the Little Tennessee River and jeopardize the continued existence of the endangered snail darter. Could the presence of this three-inch perch prevent the project’s completion, despite the fact that $53 million already invested in the project would be lost? Declaring that the ‘plain intent of Congress in enacting this statute was to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost,’3 the Court ruled that the tiny fish indeed trumped the federal project. Congress, the Court stated, had concluded that the value of endangered species was ‘incalculable’.4