Frequently asked Questions
SMP Development Shoreline Classifications/Parameters
What is a Shoreline Management Plan?
A shoreline management plan (SMP) is a comprehensive plan intended to manage the
multiple resources and uses of a lake’s shoreline so that they are consistent with
a utility’s license requirements and project purposes, and address the needs of
the public. The SMP balances the many competing interests associated with the construction
of structures along the shoreline.
Why did Appalachian Power Company (Appalachian) develop a Shoreline
Appalachian is licensed to operate the Smith Mountain Project by the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission (FERC.) The Smith Mountain Project includes both Smith Mountain
and Leesville lakes. Appalachian has an obligation under its license from the FERC
to manage the different occupancy and uses of project lands. This includes the construction
of boat docks, piers and erosion control structures. The FERC license for the project
includes the requirement that Appalachian manage the lands within the project boundary
in such a way as to protect the resources of the project. These resources include
the environmental, public recreation, cultural, scenic, and power production resources.
Appalachian developed the SMP to assist with the management of the area within the
project boundary. The goal of the SMP is to provide public and private access, protect
and enhance the non-power resources (scenic, recreational, and environmental) and
the project’s primary function, the production of electricity.
Prior to the approval of the August 29, 2003 SMP, docks serving multi-family type
dwellings and docks with more than 10 slips required resource agency review and
prior FERC approval. One goal of the SMP is to provide detailed requirements for
these types of projects that take into account the protection and enhancement of
the scenic, recreational and environmental values so that a project meeting the
plan can be approved without additional agency and FERC review.
Why does the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s interest
extend beyond the power production aspect of the project to the shoreline?
FERC has oversight and regulatory authority over all of the activities and lands
within the project boundary at the Smith Mountain Project. Under Section 10(a)(1)
of the Federal Power Act, FERC is required to ensure that any project for which
a license is issued will be best adapted to a comprehensive plan for improving or
developing a waterway for the use or benefit of interstate or foreign commerce,
for the improvement and utilization or waterpower development, for the adequate
protection, mitigation, and enhancement of fish and wildlife, and for other beneficial
public uses such as recreation. In 1986, the Electric Consumers Protection Act amended
the Federal Power Act to require FERC to give “equal consideration” to non-developmental
interests when issuing a license for a hydropower project. To carry out its responsibilities,
FERC has not only the authority, but also the obligation, to ensure that any uses
of the project boundary will be in the public interest. To that end, FERC requires
the licensee to have sufficient control of the reservoir and shoreline to protect
the project’s recreational, scenic, environmental and other public uses.
What is the "project boundary?"
In general, the project boundary for Smith Mountain Lake is the area within the
800-foot contour National Geodetic Vertical Datum (NGVD.) Likewise, in general,
the project boundary for Leesville Lake is the area within the 620-foot contour
Under what authority can Appalachian Power Company manage
what is being built on the shoreline?
As the licensee, Appalachian has the responsibility and obligation under its license
from FERC to manage the different occupancy and uses of project lands. Appalachian
is to manage the project lands in such a way as to protect the environmental, public
recreation, cultural, scenic, and power production resources of the project. In
order to carry out Appalchian’s obligations under its license, property interests
within the project boundary in the form of a Flowage Right and Easement Deed were
acquired in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s before the project was constructed.
These interests are recorded in the respective counties surrounding the lake and
are often referred to simply as flowage rights. These Flowage Right and Easement
Deeds conveyed interest to Appalachian that run with the land and as such are part
of a federally licensed project. Unfortunately, with the rapid pace of development
at the lake in recent years, the interests held by Appalachian may have been overlooked
and uses of project property have occurred as if “by right” rather than as a privilege.
The deeds specify that use of project property by an adjoining landowner is under
a revocable license.
SMP Development Shoreline Classifications/Parameters
Who has been involved in the development of the Shoreline
The SMP was developed with the help of interested individuals, local governments,
businesses and state agencies. In its review of the 2003 SMP, Appalachian organized
a Steering Committee to provide as open a forum as possible for the development
of the SMP. The Steering Committee represented in the development of he 2010 SMP
was expanded to include the following groups:
What is a "Shoreline Classification?"
The Shoreline Management Plan includes a shoreline classification system to identify
categories of use along the shoreline within the project boundary. The classifications
are as follows:
New shoreline classifications have been proposed in the December 31, 2010 draft
of the SMP. These classifications are as follows:
What is a "Parameter?"
Parameters were developed for defining each type of shoreline classification. The
parameters were then applied to the actual shoreline to determine how each section
of shoreline would be classified. For example, the parameters for defining shoreline
for future Low Density Use structures include:
Why was boating density used as a parameter?
Boat density was considered as a parameter in determining the type of shoreline
that is suitable for future high-density boat dock projects. The intent is to not
place a high-density use in an area of the lake that currently has an existing high-density
boat use. This may be the opposite of how it is done on the land, but on land, additional
lanes and traffic lights can be added as traffic increases. The lake is a fixed
area that cannot be widened to accommodate increased boat traffic in a narrow cove.
Aerial photos of the lake on 10 randomly chosen holiday and weekend days between
Memorial Day and Labor Day 2002 were collected and analyzed. To analyze the number
of boats on Smith Mountain Lake, the lake was divided into 209 sections. Smith Mountain
was divided based upon natural restrictions and coves on the lake. The boat counts
were utilized to develop average boat densities for each of the sections on the
lake. Boating patterns are not uniform around the lake, therefore it is inappropriate
to apply these standards to the entire lake to determine an average carrying capacity
for the entire lake as a whole. By utilizing smaller sections of the lake, boating
capacity could be more accurately depicted.
Appendix C of the Shoreline Management Plan contains the results of the boat density
Where can I get a copy of the regulations to build a dock?
Regulations can be found within the Shoreline Management Plan which is available
at wwwsmithmtn.com or you may request a copy of specific regulations at
email@example.com or by calling 540-489-2556.
How are extended side lot lines determined?
According to the SMP, extended side lot lines may be determined in two ways. A developer
may show the lot lines as they extend into the water as part of the subdivision
plat. These lines may be the extension of the actual side property lines into the
water or they may be shown at an angle in order to better accommodate each lot’s
dock. If shown on a subdivision plat these extended lot lines are called dock easement
lines. If the dock easement lines are not shown on a plat, then the extended property
lines will be the extension of the actual side property line as it goes into the
There is another option for showing dock locations. A developer may show actual
dock locations on an approved subdivision plan as long as docks are thirty feet
apart. This meets the intent of the plan by showing potential property owners where
their neighbor’s docks will be located and provides a 15’ setback for each structure.
As a developer, I want to give the owners of off-water lots
in my subdivision a boat dock on the lake. What are my options?
There are several options available to serve off-water lots. A community dock in
a low-density use classification allows two slips per 100’ of shoreline. More than
two slips / 100’ of shoreline would require location in a High Density Multi-Use
classification or a High Density Commercial classification. In a High Density Multi-Use
classification, community docks on a subdivision access lot or a courtesy pier with
a boat ramp can serve off-water lots provided the structures meet the High Density
How do you count personal watercraft (pwc) slips?
Lift areas used for storing personal watercraft (e.g. jet skis, wave runners, etc.)
are not counted in the total number of slips for the dock as long as the lift area
dimensions are not such that it could be used or modified to dock a boat. These
lift areas will be included in the overall square footage of the structure.
Will I be able to stabilize my shoreline?
Having natural shoreline is beneficial to the lake but it also needs to be balanced
with the need to maintain the shoreline where wave action causes bank erosion. There
are situations where erosion is not a problem such as natural beach areas or in
wetland areas. In these cases, erosion control structures are not necessary.
If there is active erosion, property owners may make application for shoreline stabilization.
Property owners are encouraged to consider first the installation of vegetation
to control erosion (possible in the backs of coves), then bioengineering techniques
(involves both plants and structure) and lastly hard-armoring e.g. riprap. Applications
are available under forms.
Will I be able to riprap my shoreline and how do you define
According to the Shoreline Management Plan, riprap will be allowed along the shoreline
in areas experiencing active erosion. A definition of active erosion has been added
to the plan. Active erosion is defined as areas that are 1) bare and void of vegetation
or other stabilizing material, 2) areas that are experiencing undercuts and/or sloughing
off of the parent material, or 3) areas directly adjacent to the shoreline that
have the potential to deposit sediment or soil material into
Do I have to replace the vegetation that is removed for the
installation of riprap?
Yes. If vegetation must be removed for the installation of riprap, then the vegetative
buffer must be replaced. Applications are available under forms. The vegetative
replacement rate is available in Table 2-5.2 of the Shoreline Management Plan.
Shoreline vegetation is important to the aesthetic qualities, environmental health
and water quality of Smith Mountain Lake and Leesville Lake. Vegetation enhances
the natural beauty of the lakes, helps prevent water pollution and provides habitat
for birds, mammals and fish.
Can I stabilize my shoreline with a bulkhead?
Bulkheads are not the preferred choice for shoreline stabilization due to their
associated negative impacts to fish habitat and natural areas. However, there are
times when bulkheads are necessary and desirabl such as where the bank is very steep.
A variance from the FERC would be required before Appalachian could issue a permit
for a bulkhead
Will I be able to dredge around my dock?
According to the SMP, maintenance dredging is allowed within existing slip and fairway
Retaining shallow water habitat and not disturbing spawning areas are important
to the ecology of the lake. The SMP allows dredging according to certain guidelines.
Dredging must be done outside the spawning period of February 15 – June 30. Only
accumulated sediment can be removed and original lake bottom may not be altered.
Dredging must not occur within 10 feet of any wetland area and dredging can not
occur between 795’ elevation and 793’ elevation in order to retain shallow water
habitat. All U.S. Corps of Engineers and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
requirements also apply.
Why is Appalachian requiring that vegetative cover be retained
along the shoreline?
Shoreline vegetation is important to the aesthetic qualities, environmental health,
and water quality of Smith Mountain and Leesville lakes. Vegetation enhances the
natural beauty of the lake, helps prevent water pollution and provides wildlife
May I maintain my existing lawn?
According to the SMP, if the area within the project boundary was cleared prior
to the implementation of the SMP (August 29, 2003) and no vegetation other than
grass is present, the property owner may continue to maintain the lawn. However,
it is encouraged that a vegetative buffer be reestablished in order to protect the
water quality of the lake.
What are the advantages of using native plants along the shoreline?
Native plants are environmentally friendly therefore require less maintenance and are cost effective, both in the nursery and in the landscape. In other words, they require less pesticides and fertilizer treatments and they conserve water.
Are beaches allowed?
The SMP allows owners of beaches that existed prior to August 29, 2003 to maintain
their beaches by adding additional sand above the 795' contour at Smith Mountain
and the 613' contour at Leesville. However, these beach owners will have the responsibility
to make sure the sand that is added to their beaches doesn’t erode away and decrease
the water depth in the adjacent shoreline area. If this occurs, the beach owner
may be required to dredge the accumulated sand. Existing beaches may not be expanded
and new beaches will not be allowed unless in public use areas or with a variance
in the High Density Commercial and High Density Multi-Use classifications.
May I remove woody debris from my shoreline property?
Woody debris is defined as trees and woody material that extend from the shoreline
into the lake. The most common type of woody debris is fallen trees where the roots
of the trees are still attached or are resting upon the shoreline. Woody debris
provides important habitat for fish and wildlife and should be protected. The removal
of existing submerged woody debris from the lake that has a diameter of 10 inches
or greater at the base of the trunk is discouraged, unless such debris constitutes
a navigational or public safety hazard. In the placement and construction of new
docks, the removal of woody debris should be minimized. Applicants for shoreline
development may be required to mitigate for the removal of woody debris from the
lake. Mitigation may involve bundling and sinking the woody debris along the shoreline
or underneath the dock in water depths not to exceed 20 feet.
I own the land in fee below the water level. Do I still have to
comply with the Shoreline Management Plan?
Even though you may own the land underneath the water in fee, the property is still
subject to Appalachian’s Flowage Right and Easement Deed that was obtained when
the project was built and you will be required to comply with the Shoreline Management
Are applications available in an electronic format?
The following applications may be downloaded from smithmtn.com.
Does Appalachian charge a fee for a permit?
Appalachian’s license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission allows it to
charge a reasonable fee to cover the costs of administering the permit program.
A study is being conducted to assess what fees are appropriate.
What is the time line for dock approval?
For new docks serving single family uses, there is a 2 week average turnaround time
for complete applications. Site inspections are conducted on all properties. If
violations are detected, additional time may be required to resolve any unforeseen
Do I need a permit to add a personal watercraft (pwc) lift?
Yes. Any modification to an existing structure or the creation of a new structure
requires permission from Appalachian to occupy and use project lands and waters.
Is the Occupancy and Use Permit a building permit?
No, the Occupancy and Use Permit is not a building permit. The Occupancy and Use
Permit issued to the property owner is permission from Appalachian Power Company,
the licensee of the Smith Mountain Project, to occupy and use Project lands and
waters. It is a personal right issued to that property owner and upon sale of property,
a new permit must be issued to the buyer so that he/she also has permission to occupy
and use project lands and waters.
If I expanded my dock without the benefit of a permit, will
I have to mitigate?
According to its license, Appalachian has the authority to grant permission for
certain types of use and occupancy of Project lands and waters. Permission is granted
only if the proposed use and occupancy is consistent with the purposes of protecting
important natural, environmental, recreational and scenic resources. Appalachian
has the continuing responsibility to supervise and control the uses of, and ensure
compliance with, the permits issued. All new structures and any addition require
permission from Appalachian.
Effective November 1, 2010, property owners who have expanded their docks without
the benefit of a permit have 30 days upon notice to obtain a permit for the expansion.
If the expansion does not meet the SMP, then property owners will have 30 days to
remove the unauthorized addition if the structure is a floating structure and 60
days to modify a stationary expansion. If the modifications are not made within
this time period, property owners may be given the opportunity to mitigate in lieu
of having their permit revoked.
Mitigation has historically involved the planting of native vegetation within the
project boundary. Should the project boundary be sufficiently vegetated, the installation
of fish habitat may be considered.
When selling lakefront property, how does a seller convey
his Occupancy and Use Permit to the buyer?
All Occupancy and Use Permits issued after the implementation of the Shoreline Management
Plan for the Smith Mountain Pumped Storage Project (August 29, 2003), all Occupancy
and Use Permits that required prior approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission, and all Permits for Non-Commercial Boat Docks/Piers/Landings must be
assigned to new property owners if the property is sold, in essence resulting in
a new permit for the new property owners.
The seller contacts Appalachian (firstname.lastname@example.org)
to request a status report of the project boundary and any permits issued for the
property in question. Appalachian staff researches its records, conducts a site
visit if necessary and conveys its findings in writing to the seller. Upon compliance
with any permits issued and a satisfactory inspection, Appalachian will issue a
letter stating that as of that day and barring no modifications, Appalachian can
execute the Assignment of Permit. In addition, Appalachian will notify the appropriate
county building official to assist them with compliance with their building and
If the structure is not in compliance with the permit issued or other violations
are detected, additional information will be conveyed to the property owner on the
actions necessary to obtain compliance.
Is the buyer or the seller responsible for compliance issues?
The seller is responsible for compliance issues. However, if the property sold without
the proper assignment requests submitted, then the buyer is responsible and may
be required to remove the structure or bring the structure into compliance with
the regulations set forth in the Shoreline Management Plan. In either instance Appalachian
would ask that a new application for Occupancy and Use be submitted. Appalachian
will only issue an Occupancy and Use Permit for structures that meet the Shoreline
Management Plan. Modifications to the structure and mitigation may be required.
What types of shoreline or dock maintenance can be done without
What is the appeal process?
If a property owner wishes to appeal a decision made by a Shoreline Management staff
member the appeal must be made in writing to Liz Parcell, 996 Old Franklin Turnpike,
Rocky Mount, VA 24151.
If after completion of this process the property owner is compelled to pursue their
issue further they may appeal in writing to Frank Simms, Hydro Manager, P.O. Box
2021, Roanoke, VA 24022-2121.
In addition, any decision may be appealed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20426
How do county zoning laws and Shoreline Management compare?
County zoning is based on land use and goals identified in their respective comprehensive
plans. Each has specific language regarding development along the shoreline. Appalachian
used this information in the development of shoreline classifications and regulations.
The proposed use will dictate which regulations will apply to the proposed development.
When the proposed development is a “lesser” use than the SMP shoreline classification,
the regulations for the proposed development will prevail (e.g. a proposed residential
dock in an area where the shoreline designation is high-density multi-use is required
to meet the low-density use regulations). In addition, if county zoning and the
shoreline classification do not match, then the more restrictive regulations will
apply (e.g. a dock in a county’s residentially zoned district would have to meet
the Low Density regulations, even if the shoreline classification is commercial,
unless the County changed their zoning for the upland use).
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