A group of neighbors at Smith Mountain Lake is continuing its legal fight against Appalachian Power over shoreline regulations.
Appalachian Power helped build the lake and regulates the shoreline. That means if homeowners want to build on their portion of the shoreline, they have to get permission from Appalachian Power.
It was standing room only at a Thursday night meeting hosted by Cut Unnecessary Regulatory Burden, Inc., or CURB. This came after a ruling by a Franklin County Circuit Court judge in Appalachian Power’s favor over regulating the shoreline at Smith Mountain Lake.
“The way we saw it was – there’s no way we’re getting a dock unless we file suit and find out what our property rights are vs. their property rights,” said Richard Pressl, who lives along the lake in Franklin County.
Pressl is one of the people fighting the power company in court. He has been trying to build a dock on his shoreline without obtaining a permit required by Appalachian Power.
Pressl said he believes the power company is placing a burden on him, requiring him to plant trees and let them fully mature before he can build his dock.
“I don’t think a private power company should be able to come on your property and tell you that you have to plant X number of trees in X locations, and they have to reach full maturity before I’ll give you a dock,” he said.
But a judge disagrees, saying the power company does have regulatory rights of property owners’ shorelines as required by the federal government.
“As an operator of this hydroelectric plant that people are accessing…that does indeed give us some responsibility to maintain that shoreline in the best way possible,” said John Shepelwich, Appalachian Power spokesman.
Shepelwich said the company’s rules are in place to ensure safety for boaters and to protect the natural habitat. Those regulations, explained in the shoreline management plan, were created with public input from neighbors, he added.
“We’re certainly not opposed to docks,” Shepelwich said. “We’re not opposed to any other kind of work that’s done on the shoreline, but we want it done in a fair and equitable manner.”
Appalachian Power cannot comment on specific cases, Shepelwich said.
Neighbors are in the process of preparing paperwork for an appeal, according to CURB leaders.