Winter flooding causing tons of debris to wash up on Smith Mountain Lake

Flooding that took place this winter is now causing Appalachian Power to remove lots of debris from Smith Mountain Lake.

While the flooding helped fill Appalachian Power's Smith Mountain Project, it also washed clean the riverbanks of the tributaries that feed it.  According to a news release, in the last few weeks alone Appalachian Power removed 528 tons of mostly woody debris from the Roanoke River arm of Smith Mountain Lake.

“When high water follows drought conditions, it often washes trees, limbs, trash and other debris into the reservoir,” Teresa Rogers, process supervisor for Hydro Generation Appalachian Power, said. “This year it’s washed even more floating debris into the lake than normal because the water rose so quickly and with such force.”

The Smith Mountain Pumped Storage Project is a hydroelectric facility that generates electricity at a dam in Smith Mountain. Water used for generating electricity is then captured downstream in Leesville Lake where it is pumped back in to Smith Mountain Lake to generate again. The company operates the project under a license, and as part of the license it is responsible for removing debris from the lake when certain conditions arise.

“The good news is that in addition to removing 1,056,000 pounds of debris, so far clean-up crews found significantly less man-made debris than in years past,” Rogers said. “This is a testament to the volunteer river clean-up efforts upstream in recent years.” 

The debris-removal crew will finish up on the Roanoke River arm then move to the Blackwater arm of Smith Mountain Lake and Leesville Lake.

Appalachian Power officials remind boaters to use safe boating practices and watch for floating or submerged debris, especially this time of year. 

“While we certainly are able to have an impact on the debris in the lake, it is impossible to remove every piece of floating debris that enters the lake,” Rogers added.