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Smith Mountain Project property owners should be aware of dredging deadline

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE, Va., Jan. 21, 2020 – The four-month ban on dredging within Smith Mountain Project lake boundaries begins next month.

Dredging by property owners at Smith Mountain and Leesville lakes is typically done to remove sediment and debris from the bottom of the lake to increase water depth. To protect fish habitat during spawning season, dredging within the lakes’ boundaries is prohibited yearly between Feb. 15 and June 15.

Dan Wilson, fisheries biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries said this policy is necessary to support fish population growth at the Smith Mountain Project. Sunfish, catfish and a variation of bass are known to inhabit Smith Mountain and Leesville lakes. 

“The four-month ban helps protect key spawning areas that are in shallow water, where most dredging takes place,” Wilson said. “Spawning temperatures vary among species and there are several spawning stages – site selection, active spawning, rearing – that encompass a fairly long period.” 

Property owners planning to dredge prior to the four-month ban must contact Appalachian Power no later than Jan. 31. If contact is not made prior to the end of the month, property owners should plan their dredging projects after June 15.    

“Contacting us prior to the end of the month gives us enough time to get out to the property and sign off on the work before the prohibited time starts,” said Neil Holthouser, with Appalachian Power’s shoreline management group. ”We ask that property owners who do miss the deadline still submit the required documents with the intentions of dredging in mid-June.”   

When considering dredging at Smith Mountain or Leesville lakes, shoreline property owners and contractors should remember these key requirements:

·         Only accumulated sediment may be dredged; the original lake bottom cannot be disturbed. Dredging or excavation of all designated wetlands areas is prohibited.

·         Dredging or excavation involving more than 25 cubic yards of sediment requires the filing of a joint application with Appalachian and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

·         Dredging or excavation involving less than 25 cubic yards of sediment may be allowed under the USACE Nationwide Permit 19, provided certain conditions are met. Property owners are advised to consult with the USACE prior to any planned dredging activity.

·         Appalachian requires that property owners who are considering dredging less than 25 cubic yards of sediment contact Appalachian a minimum of 10 working days prior to the planned dredging so that Appalachian can determine if the project meets the requirements of the Shoreline Management Plan.

To contact Appalachian’s shoreline management staff, call (540) 985-2579 or email Neil Holthouser at To contact the USACE, call (540) 344-1409.

Visit beginning on page 71 of the Shoreline Management Plan for more information.

Smith Mountain Project is a 636-megawatt pumped storage hydroelectric facility on the Roanoke River that utilizes an upper reservoir (Smith Mountain Lake) and a lower reservoir (Leesville Lake). Combined, the project includes about 600 miles of shoreline. Water stored in Smith Mountain Lake first passes through turbine-generators in the powerhouse to produce electricity and is discharged into Leesville Lake. From there, some water is released through the Leesville Dam or pumped back into Smith Mountain. The project was built and is operated by Appalachian Power.

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