"It is clear that the Muscle Shoals development is but a small part of the potential usefulness of the entire Tennessee River," said President Roosevelt in proposing in 1933 that Congress establish a Tennessee Valley Authority. "Such use, if envisioned in its entirety, transcends mere power development: it enters the wide fields of flood control, soil erosion, afforestation, elimination from agricultural use of submarginal lands, and distribution and diversification of industry. In short, this power development of war days leads logically to national planning for a complete river watershed, involving many states and the future lives and welfare of millions."
And so the Tennessee Valley Authority was created, not as an ordinary government agency, but more as a public corporation "clothed with the power of government, but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of private enterprise." Made responsible directly to the President, TVA was charged with the regional but sizable task of promoting closer integration and better balance between industry and agriculture, broadening economic opportunity, and generally to insure a rising standard of living.
Perhaps the best exposition of the basic role of TVA is that of its capable director, David Lilienthal, in his book TVA: Democracy on the March ( Harper). "There is a grand cycle in nature," he writes. "The lines of those majestic swinging arcs are nowhere more clearly seen than by following the course of electric power in the Tennessee Valley's way of life. Water falls upon a mountain slope six thousand feet above the river's mouth...