On July 19th we posted an item entitled The Free Lunch Revisited, in which we noted Jane Jacobs’ description of what happened in the Tennessee Valley in the aftermath of United States ex rel. TVA v. Powelson. To add to that, we have recently come across an article by Felicity Barringer, Decades Later, Simmering Debate on a Road Heats Up, N.Y. Times, Feb. 27, 2006, at p. A12, telling the story of how in the 1940s the TVA took 100,000 acres from Swain County, N.C., and promised to replace a road that got flooded by a TVA dam. Road construction was started but was stopped in the 1960s. Now, the local folks want their road, and the local congressman has set aside $16 million for its construction, which has caused the environmentalists to go ape. The local folks want their road and are a bit teed off about it all. But the environmentalists are leading a fight against the restoration of this road. So stay tuned and see how it all turns out.
We bring this up now because not only did the locals get undercompensated, and the TVA made a killing on the land taken from them, but now it turns out that Uncle Sam won’t even deliver on what he promised. And so it goes in the wacky world of eminent domain.
This story has provided inspiration for us to tell the stories of some other high-profile condemnation cases, what happened in them, and — more important — what happened afterwards. That turns out to be a highly instructive story. Berman, Poletown, Penn Central, and Midkiff all tell the same story — What the condemnors say in court is one thing, but what happens on the ground, is quite another. So stay tuned.