GUNTERSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-Local marina owners are up in arms over a new federal fee they say will cripple, and possibly kill, their businesses.
The federally owned Tennessee Valley Authority has announced plans to implement a new land and water use fee starting in January. The agency will collect four percent of total gross revenue from all privately run marinas and campgrounds that operate on TVA shorelines, a fee TVA officials say is a matter of fairness for land they already own and lease out. But some local business owners say the new fee structure is outrageous, and possibly illegal.
"It's gonna drive a lot of the private owners out of business, period," said Russ Cranford, who manages a privately-run marina on Lake Guntersville. "It's gonna force the rent to go up, and it's going to get passed on to the customer because we can't just absorb that kind of increase...They [customers] are going to get out of boating if they can't afford it, sell their boats and move elsewhere, and that hurts everybody."
A three-state coalition of marina owners who plan to file a federal lawsuit against TVA said the agency is charging a tax that can only be authorized by Congress. But TVA officials told WHNT News 19 that the new fee structure is completely within the law, and has been advertised on its website for more than two years.
"The four percent, which may seem like a tax, is just a way of determining what that rent would be," said TVA spokesman James Adams. "Just like a farmer rents land to grow crops, or someone else rents land to build buildings, these individuals and businesses are renting the public land in order to provide services."
TVA has suffered several millions dollars worth of losses in recent years, but officials said the agency's deteriorating financial outlook was not connected to the new fee system. Publicly owned marinas and campgrounds are exempt from the new regulations, further irking local business owners.
"I question the legality of it," said Cranford. "To charge private industry and not charge municipalities is just not right. It's like they don't want private industry here, like they're intentionally trying to run us out."