The Tri-County Lakes Administrative Commission hosted the meeting at Eastlake Community Church. It is one of several held so far to gather feedback from residents and business owners while the current Shoreline Management Plan is up for review.
“This is a listening session for us,” said Lorie Smith, TLAC chairman, who led the evening meeting.
The more than 50 lake residents who attended Thursday’s meeting were overwhelmingly negative concerning the current state of the Shoreline Management Plan. Several complained of long wait times to apply for permits from Appalachian Power and unconventional requirements in order to receive them.
Dwayne Wolters, the owner of Christmas Tree Island, said he was told he needed to plant water willow along the shoreline and have an underwater survey done before he would be given a permit for a dock. He called the requests “unreasonable” and something that no other shoreline property owner has had to do in the past.
“They don’t want to work with any of us,” Wolters said. “They don’t want to please any of us.”
Appalachian Power created its first Shoreline Management Plan in 2003 as part of its relicensing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The license allows the Ohio-based Appalachian Power, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, to operate Smith Mountain Dam and the entire hydroelectric project boundary that encompasses both Smith Mountain and Leesville lakes.
The Shoreline Management Plan provides a guideline for what modifications shoreline property owners can do below a contour line around Smith Mountain Lake listed as 800 feet above sea level. Below that line, property owners must apply for permits from Appalachian Power to construct docks, install riprap or remove vegetation or sedimentation.
FERC requires a periodic review of the Shoreline Management Plan since it was first created in 2003. The last review was in 2014. This current review will continue until early next year when Appalachian Power will present any newly proposed changes to the plan to FERC.
TLAC board members are expected to meet with Appalachian Power representatives early next year to discuss comments gathered from public meetings. Some in attendance at Thursday’s meeting questioned if Appalachian Power was interested in improving the plan.
Several speakers said the utility company was very slow to respond to permit requests.
“To lock everyone out, to me says, they don’t give a damn,” said Nick Testoni who owns a lakefront home in Huddleston and underwent the process to obtain a permit from Appalachian Power. Many others in attendance shared the same sentiment.
“Where has the common sense gone?” Tim Reith said. “It hasn’t been implemented for the last 10 years at AEP.”
Smith said she would take the comments provided at Thursday’s as well as other meetings to discuss ways to improve the Shoreline Management Plan with Appalachian Power. All the comments would also be provided to FERC as part of the plan’s review.
Following the meeting, Smith said her goal is to develop some meaningful changes to the Shoreline Management Plan to make it easier for residents to obtain a permit. She said people have expressed their displeasure with the current plan at recent meetings and are eager for solutions.