American Electric Power (AEP) has legal rights to the shoreline at Smith Mountain Lake, and obtaining an AEP permit is required for various things you may want to do. Not understanding these requirements and permits can cause you serious problems, so it's important to have a basic knowledge of how to work with AEP. This section will discuss what activities require a permit, how to successfully deal with AEP, and options you have in case you run into issues.
WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT AEP?
AEP controls what is referred to as the "800 foot contour" at Smith Mountain Lake. What does that mean? When the lake is at "full pond", the elevation of the surface of the water is 795 feet above sea level. AEP controls 800 feet above sea level and down. So, if you go up 5 vertical feet from the surface of the water, wherever that point hits the land, AEP controls from that elevation and below. Where the 800 foot contour "hits" the land varies depending on how steep the lot is, but essentially, AEP controls the entire shoreline of Smith Mountain Lake.
SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Anything you want to do below the 800 foot contour requires permission from AEP. Well, not "anything," but many things. The primary things that require an AEP permit are the following:
Any structure you might want to build below the 800 foot contour will require a permit from AEP. So if you want to place a picnic table or chairs below the 800 foot contour, no problem. But other than a boat dock, AEP greatly limits any construction below the 800 foot contour.
SO IS THIS A PROBLEM?
No, it really isn't. There are well established procedures in place for obtaining permits for the 3 things mentioned above. There are boat docks and riprapped shorelines everywhere you look on the lake. So AEP is not trying to keep people from enjoying Smith Mountain Lake, they just require certain procedures to be followed. Below we will discuss getting permits for the 3 main things mentioned above.
Shoreline Management Plan This is the official document from AEP that describes the overall plan, and contains all of the information you need to navigate through the application process. AEP is the final authority for all permits, and any required actions on your part. Below are relevant AEP website links that will describe, in great detail, everything you need to do to obtain various AEP permits.
Click the Forms link, and you will be taken to the AEP page with application links for building a dock, adding riprap, and removing vegetation.
DOCK PERMIT APPLICATION
A Dock Permit from AEP is required if you are building a new boat dock, or are modifying an existing dock. Docks built before 2003, the year the Shoreline Management Plan was introduced, are "grandfathered" in even if they don't conform to current regulations for new docks. But any modifications to an existing dock require a permit, regardless of the year they were constructed.
RIPRAP PERMIT APPLICATION (SHORELINE STABILIZATION)
First of all, what is "riprap"? Riprap is a collection of rocks (about the size of a basketball) that are placed along the length of the shoreline to prevent erosion. Without riprap, the lake's waters splashing against the shoreline will eventually erode that shoreline.
VEGETATION REMOVAL PERMIT APPLICATION
What is vegetation removal? For the purposes of AEP, this refers primarily to removing trees from your lot. It can be for a variety of reasons, but the main reason is to get rid of trees blocking your view of the lake.
Although the vast majority of the time working with AEP goes smoothly, it's possible you may run into problems, or even feel as is AEP is not being reasonable.
Fortunately there are solutions. There is an ex-AEP employee we know who works on behalf of Smith Mountain Lake property owners when they run into problems with AEP. She knows all of the inner workings of the company, and has valuable contacts and influence there. Of course she charges a fee for this service ($400 is a typical expense), but she has a record of great success in resolving issues with AEP that at first seemed highly problematic.
Although for privacy reasons we cannot disclose her name or contact information on this page, we are happy to refer you to her privately. Please use our Contact Us button on our home page, and we will forward you her contact information at your request.