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Congress Can Define Amount Of Land Needed For Public Use


In United States ex rel. TVA v. Welch, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that Congress has the authority to define how much private land needs to be “taken” to achieve a particular public use. In Welch, a dam built by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) created a reservoir that flooded the only public highway serving the area’s residents. After consulting with state and local officials, the TVA decided that instead of paying to build a new road, it would take over the whole surrounding area for a park and relocate the few local residents. The Court rules that Congress has authorized the TVA to take whatever steps are necessary to carry out its projects, such as the dam, and taking private property here serves that “public use” in a constitutional manner.