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Campground asking AEP to dredge Smith Mountain Lake amid safety concerns

Owner reached out to AEP in April, but hasn't heard back

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – People at Ponderosa Campground at Smith Mountain Lake are concerned about a growing area of debris, limiting their access to the lake.

Now they're asking Appalachian Power for help.

"They’re not going to want to come to a campground that they can't get fish, that they can't boat, swim or whatever," Ponderosa Campground owner Linda Overstreet said.

That's what Overstreet is worried about because of a growing fill-in. It’s a piece of land jutting out into the waterway, making it more shallow and less accessible. Just this weekend, a fire boat couldn't get water to a firetruck on the campground because of it.

"If the fire had come all the way down the hill, it could've wiped out the whole campground," Overstreet said.

It's not just that though.

"Sometimes you have problems just getting the boats out" John Cooper, who is also asking AEP to dredge the area, said.

Locals say they've had these issues for months.

"You have boats coming up there very fast, running directly into it at high-speed and that's a very serious safety issue," Cooper said.

That's why they sent a letter to Appalachian Power in April, asking the utility to dredge the fill-in.

Appalachian Power communications consultant John Shepelwich gave WSLS 10 the following statement:

“Appalachian Power operates the Smith Mountain project under a federal license and is required to remove sediment where it interferes with project purposes (generating power).  Appalachian also provides public recreation facilities and public access to the waters; nonpublic uses -- such as private campgrounds and marinas -- are allowed within the project for use of the reservoir. However, Appalachian is not obligated to perform dredging in order to allow access for these nonpublic uses. Adjacent property owners indeed could dredge the area -- and we would support that -- but it would not be a long-term solution. The dredging will require permitting from the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

"The problem of sedimentation exists largely outside of Appalachian’s control.  Most sedimentation is the result of land-disturbing activity outside of the SML boundary.  As such, Appalachian believes that the responsibility for controlling erosion and preventing sediment from entering the project lake lies with local governments and adjacent property owners.”

"We are trying. The only other option is for us to try to come up with the money somehow to do it on our own and you're talking lots of money here. And that's something a lot of us on retirement incomes just don't have," Cooper said.