AEP Regulations at Smith Mountain Lake

AEP Regulations and Permits

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:

  • Building (or modifying) a boat dock
  • Adding riprap to your shoreline
  • Removing vegetation (such as trees blocking your view)

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.

Getting AEP Permits

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 Apply Now under Shoreline Permits, and you will be taken to the AEP page with application links for building a dock, adding riprap, and removing vegetation.

If you are thinking about purchasing property at Smith Mountain Lake, or just have some questions, please visit our home page at to see available homes and lots for sale. You can also click Contact to reach Ted for a quick reply to any questions you may have.

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.

  • AEP requires a survey to be performed on the property, showing details of the planned structure (dock). This must be done by a licensed surveyor, and will cost on average about $500-$600. This is the primary expense you will have during this application process. If you'd like our recommendations for a surveyor, please contact us directly, and we will provide you with a list.
  • The entire process to get a dock permit will take a minimum of 30 days, but likely longer (90 days or longer is not uncommon).
  • You or one of your agents or contractors (such as a surveyor or dock builder) should plan to be in communication with AEP directly as needed. You can reach a member of the Shoreline Management Staff at 540-985-2579.
  • The easiest way to get through this process is to hire a licensed dock builder. They will have an existing relationship with AEP, with surveyors, and anyone else needed for this endeavor. They should be able to handle the process for you turn-key, although you will need to sign the application, provide information and so forth. They will of course charge a fee for this service, but it will be well worth it. Please contact us if you'd like our recommendations for experienced and qualified dock builders at the lake.

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.

  • Shoreline Stabilization Permit from AEP is required before adding riprap to a shoreline.
  • A drawing showing the lot and the planned placement of the riprap is a required part of the application. Photographs are asked for as well.
  • Although AEP allows you to add riprap to your shoreline, you are not required to have it.
  • The easiest way to negotiate this process is by hiring a contractor that specializes in placing riprap. As with dock builders, these contractors have an existing relationship with AEP, and have gone through this process many times in the past. Please contact us for a list of recommended contractors for this type of work.

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.

  • Vegetation Removal Permit from AEP is required to remove any vegetation below the 800 foot contour. If it's above the 800 foot contour, you do not need a permit from AEP.
  • A drawing showing what trees you plan to remove is required for the permit. A landscape plan showing proposed replantings is also required. When removing vegetation, AEP requires that you replant a corresponding amount of vegetation on the property. For example, if you remove tall trees blocking your view, you can replace them with short bushes that don't block your view. AEP requires that any replantings be done with native plants. A list of native plants is available at Appendix F of the Shoreline Management Plan page. As with other permits, hiring a qualified contractor to do the work for you is something you should consider. Please contact us for recommendations.

Having Issues with AEP?

Although the vast majority of the time working with AEP goes smoothly, it's possible you may run into problems, or even feel as if 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 Contact Us, and we will forward you her contact information at your request.

AEP Regulations at Smith Mountain Lake