For the third time in a year, the Senate last nightdefeated efforts to revive the Tennessee Valley Authority's Tellico Dam - the project that was snagged by the snail darter fish.

On a 53-to-45 vote, the Senate adopted an amendment by Sen. John C. Culver (D-Iowa) to remove Tellico construction language from the pending energy-water resources appropriations bill.

Although the Senate postponed final action on the $10.8 billion spending bill until today, it took these other steps yesterday:

It removed two White House "hit list" projects - the Yatesville Dam in eastern Kentucky and the Bayou Bodcau levee project in Louisiana - after a last minute, hand-written threat of a veto by President Carter.

It defeated, 51 to 46, an amendment by Sen. William S. Cohen (R. Maine) that would have stricken $710,000 from the bill for the long-controversial Dickey-Lincoln hydroelectric power dam in Maine.

Tellico and Dickey-Lincoln both provoked heated floor exchanges yesterday, but the center of attraction was the future of Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River.

Resumption of the project - halted last year by the Supreme Court because of the snail darter protection issue - had been ordered by the House last month on a little-noticed amendment by Rep. John J. Duncan (R.-Tenn.).

Culver charged on the Senate floor that "the skids were greased shamelessly" in the House through a "dark-of-night" act of deception. He urged his colleagues to vote against completion of Tellico.

Earlier this year the Senate rejected efforts to exempt Tellico from the Endangered Species Act - and thus remove the imperiled snail darter from the act's protection. Similar action ocurred last year.

The $140 million project was halted just short of completion and its supporters, led yesterday by Sen. Jim Sasser (D.-Tenn.), complained that the darter was causing a senseless waste of TVA money.

TVA is working on alternative plans for development of the area without impoundment of the lake behind the completed dam.