Asheville Citizen-Times: Senate votes to keep houseboats on TVA lakes

Senate votes to keep houseboats on TVA lakes

Mark Barrett


The U.S. Senate has approved legislation to stop Tennessee Valley Authority from forcing removal of houseboats from Fontana Lake and other TVA reservoirs after a 30-year grace period.

The Senate last week attached an amendment offered by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., to a water resources development bill that would invalidate the policy the TVA board adopted in May.

Burr’s amendment would allow houseboats to remain on TVA lakes indefinitely “as long as they follow TVA’s health, safety and environmental standards,” said Taylor Holgate, a Burr spokeswoman.

Owners of houseboats that were grandfathered in when TVA prohibited new houseboats on the lake in 1978 would have 15 years to comply with TVA standards and those who do not have permits for their houseboats would get five years, Holgate said. TVA would retain authority to make policies on any new houseboats.

TVA says the houseboats create navigational and environmental problems. Owners and their allies say they have a favorable impact on local economies.

Burr’s office says there are nearly 400 houseboats on TVA lakes in Western North Carolina, which include Fontana Lake in Graham and Swain counties and Hiwassee Lake in Cherokee County.

Burr said in a statement that he hopes the move will ultimately “bring some relief to North Carolinians in Swain and Graham Counties who are worried about losing their homes because of the TVA’s proposed ban. Many of these families have been living on the lake for decades, and no one should have to worry about losing their home because of intrusive government policies.”

The houseboats are typically vacation homes, not primary residences.

The water resources bill was sent to the House for consideration.

Also in the House, a committee on Friday morning is scheduled to hear from two houseboat owners, the head of the TVA board, a Swain County commissioner and a representative of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation.

The hearing was called by U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Jackson, chairman of the Government Operations Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Meadows has also filed legislation to roll back the TVA policy.