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Shoreline FAQs

Have questions about Smith Mountain shorelines? Here are the answers to the most common questions. For other shoreline-related questions, you can call 540.985.2579 or email

General Questions

A Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) helps balance the competing interests associated with the creation of structures along a lake's shoreline. The SMP takes into consideration the multiple resources and uses of the shoreline so that they're consistent with requirements and regulations, while also addressing the needs of the public.

Appalachian Power 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. We have an obligation under the license from the FERC to manage the occupancy and use of project lands. This includes the construction of boat docks, piers and erosion control structures. The FERC license for the project requires we manage the lands within the project boundary to protect the resources of the project including the environmental, public recreation, cultural, scenic and power production assets.

Appalachian Power 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, while protecting and enhancing the scenic, recreational, and environmental resources and enabling the project's primary function: the production of electricity. The current SMP in place was updated in 2010.

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. 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. 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.

The project boundary for Smith Mountain Lake is the area within the 800-foot contour National Geodetic Vertical Datum (NGVD.) The project boundary for Leesville Lake is the area within the 620-foot contour NGVD.

As the licensee, Appalachian Power has the responsibility and obligation to manage the different occupancy and uses of project lands. We manage the project lands to protect the environmental, public recreation, cultural, scenic, and power production resources of the project.

Development Shoreline Classifications & Parameters

The Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) was developed with the help of stakeholders, local governments, businesses and commonwealth agencies. The steering committee represented in the development of the current SMP included the following groups:

  • Bedford County
  • Campbell County
  • Franklin County
  • Pittsylvania County
  • Virginia Dept. of Conservation and Recreation
  • Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality
  • Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries
  • Virginia Dept. of Historic Resources
  • Virginia Dept. of Health
  • Association of Lake Area Communities
  • Smith Mountain Lake Association
  • Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce
  • Smith Mountain Marine Business Association
  • Leesville Lake Association

Appalachian Power and steering committee representatives also held numerous public and stakeholder meetings to solicit input. In addition to holding meetings open to the public, meetings were held with the following groups:

  • Dock builders
  • Marina operators
  • Surveyors
  • County staff representatives
  • Landscapers
  • Chambers of commerce/business associations
  • Shoreline stabilization and dredging contractors
  • The Roanoke Valley Association of Realtors

The Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) includes a classification system to identify categories of use along the shoreline within the project boundary. The classifications are as follows:

  • Commercial
  • Multi use
  • Public use
  • Residential or single family
  • Resource protection area
  • Island protection

The exact definition of the classifications can be found in the SMP. Parameters for each shoreline classification were developed by the steering committee. These parameters also can be found in the SMP.

Parameters define each type of shoreline classification. The parameters were then applied to the actual shoreline to determine how each section of shoreline would be classified.

A complete list of parameters for each shoreline classification can be found in section 2.3 of the Shoreline Management Plan.


Regulations can be found within the Shoreline Management Plan. If you need copies of or have questions about a specific regulation, call 540.985.2579 for more information.

All dock permits issued after the implementation of the SMP in 2003 include the requirement to install white reflectors on each outermost water-facing portion of the structure and every 20 feet on both sides. This is a Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries recommendation to enhance safety by helping to alert mariners of structures on the lake. Final inspections of docks and assignment of permit applications will not be issued until white reflectors have been installed.

Sanitation facilities, including sinks, which existed prior to August 31, 2003 cannot be expanded or rebuilt. Any future permits will not be issued until the sanitation facilities are removed from the dock.

Single-family homes have the right to withdraw water for landscaping and other uses, and a yard hydrant that utilizes lake water is permitted. However, discharge from showers, sinks, hydrants etc. into the lake below the 800 foot contour elevation utilizing water from other sources is not allowed.

Lift areas used for storing 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.

The legacy program applies to any dock or pier in existence as of August 31, 2003 for which Appalachian Power has not yet issued a permit. The legacy program will also apply to any dock or pier for which the appropriate county issued a permit by August 31, 2003, and it was constructed no later than Sept. 22, 2005. Further, a permit for residential boat dock/pier/landing issued by Appalachian Power prior to August 31, 2003 and built no later than Sept. 22, 2005 would also qualify. Any modifications or additions after the appropriate date would require compliance with the SMP. See Section 2.6 Documentation Program of the SMP for full details.

No. Applications may be submitted at any time. However, the application must be complete and contain the required information to be processed.

Upon the sale of the property, an application for assignment of permit for non-commercial boat dock/pier/landing should be submitted to Appalachian Power.

An Occupancy and Use Permit is required to install an automatic boat cover only if the boat cover extends beyond the structure. Boat covers that expand the dock are not allowed.

Shoreline Stabilization

If there is active erosion, property owners may apply for shoreline stabilization. Property owners are encouraged first to consider 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.

According to the SMP, riprap will be allowed along the shoreline in areas experiencing active erosion. 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 the lake.

Vegetation does not have to be replaced. However, one of our representatives will work with you to determine the appropriate amount of vegetation necessary to remove in order to install riprap. Existing vegetation to be preserved needs to be indicated on a landscape plan and submitted as part of the shoreline stabilization application. Any vegetation removed in excess of the specified amount will be required to be replaced. Trees and wooded material removed during the installation of riprap must be collected, bundled and sunk along the adjacent shoreline in water no greater than 20 feet deep.

Bulkheads are not the preferred choice for shoreline stabilization due to negative impact to fish habitat and natural areas. However, there are times when bulkheads are necessary, like when the bank is steep. A variance from the FERC would be required before Appalachian Power could issue a permit for a bulkhead.


Yes, under certain conditions. According to the SMP, maintenance dredging is allowed within existing slip and fairway areas.

Maintaining shallow water habitat and spawning areas are important to the ecology of the lake. Dredging must be done outside the spawning period of Feb. 15 – June 15. 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 cannot occur between 795' elevation and 793' elevation in order to retain shallow water habitat. All U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality requirements also apply. Notification to Appalachian Power and the ACOE is required for all dredging activities.

Vegetative Cover

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 habitat.

According to the Shoreline Management Plan, if the area within the project boundary was cleared prior to 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, like native plants, be replanted to protect the water quality of the lake.


The Shoreline Management Plan 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 and decrease the water depth in the 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 commercial and multi-use classifications.

Woody debris consists of trees and vegetation that extends 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 to, 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 is a hazard to navigation. If woody debris is removed without approval from Appalachian Power through a Vegetation Removal Permit, the property owner may be required to replant vegetation or install fish habitat as mitigation. Please contact us at 540.985.2579 prior to removing any woody debris.

An access path may be constructed to your dock; however, it must meet the following requirements, or it will have to be removed from within the Project boundary. The width of the path must not exceed 6 feet between the Project boundary and the base elevation and must be perpendicular to the shoreline to the greatest extent possible. Access paths should fit into the character of the land; the path should avoid existing vegetation and wind around existing large trees and shrubs. Vegetation or additional mulch should be used to cover the exposed soil to prevent erosion. If paving material is needed, gravel, stepping stones or other permeable material may be used. Paths designed for those with disabilities can be made from semi-permeable granular stone compacted to create an accessible surface. Three or four inches of mulch is the preferred method. Impermeable materials, such as asphalt or concrete, should not be utilized for access paths.

All Occupancy and Use Permits issued after 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.

Prior to any real estate transaction, the seller should request a status of property report to assess the property's compliance with any permits that have been issued. Appalachian Power staff will then research our records, conduct a site visit, and share our findings with the property owner. If the property and dock structure(s), if present, are in compliance with any applicable permits and the Shoreline Management Plan, then existing dock permits can be assigned to the new property owners. Please note that the new property owners will have to submit the appropriate assignment application.

The current property owner of record is responsible for compliance issues. However, if the property is sold, then the buyer inherits responsibility for any existing compliance issues, and may be required to remove structures or bring the structure(s) into compliance with existing permits and the Shoreline Management Plan. No permit can be assigned until all compliance issues have been resolved. Failure to resolve compliance issues may result in revocation of an existing permit and the associated rights to Occupy and Use Project lands and waters.

  • Vegetation less than ½ inch may be removed without a permit.
  • Existing lawns may be mowed.
  • Existing riprap may be refreshed as long as the overall height and length are not expanded nor the encroachment into the lake excessive.

Yes. View all applications or answer questions to figure out the right forms for you. The following forms are available online:

  • Residential or Single Family Dock Application
  • Assignment of Permit
  • Application for Shoreline Stabilization
  • Waiver of Setback to Dock Delineation
  • Waiver of Dock Delineation Line
  • Oversized Boat Slip Acknowledgement Form
  • Vegetation Removal Permit Application

Applications for others uses may be obtained by calling 540.985.2579.

At this time, Appalachian Power does not charge a fee for obtaining a permit. However, Occupancy and Use Permits, and the assignment of permits, are recorded with the county’s Clerk of Circuit Court which charges a fee to have the permits recorded. As a result, a check made out to the appropriate county’s Clerk of Circuit Court is required as a part of our applications. Please refer to our applications for the current recordation fee for each county.

For new docks serving single family uses, there is a two week average turnaround time for complete applications. Site inspections are conducted on all properties. If violations are detected, additional time may be required.

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, the licensee of the Smith Mountain Project, to occupy and use project lands and waters. The appropriate county should be contacted following the issuance of an Occupancy and Use Permit to obtain a building permit.

Yes. Any modification to an existing structure or the creation of a new structure requires permission from Appalachian Power.

If a property owner wishes to appeal a decision made by a shoreline management staff member, the appeal must be made in writing to:

Hydro Plant Manager
Appalachian Power Company
P.O. Box 2021
Roanoke, VA 24022

In addition, any decision may be appealed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.