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Friday, April 1, 2011

Sitting on the Dock of the Lake

News to Know
by Amanda Causey



Alabama Power holds property rights around the lake for the scenic easement below the 800 foot elevation level. So before you begin construction, make changes or additions to any structures or the shoreline, you need to call Alabama Power Company for a permit. I asked Sheila Smith, the Land Supervisor for the Lake Wedowee area some questions that property owners may want to know.

Q. What is the biggest challenge you face in shoreline permitting?
 
A. Customers not taking precautions for erosion during construction and not properly installing silt fencing. 
 
FYI: The three types of standard erosion control are vegetative, structural, and combination. Not all of these methods are right for every situation. It is important to match the type of erosion, and lakeshore environment, to the control method.

Q.  How many permits do you typically issue in a year? 
A. The last couple of years we've issued between 275 to 300 per year. These numbers are down from previous years. At times it has run between 350 to 400. 

Q. What can you do on your land with out a permit? 
A. If you have projects planned on shoreline property it's best to contact our local Shoreline Office at (256)396-5093 before any work begins. We would like to discuss our guidelines with the property owner so they understand exactly what Alabama Power Company’s property rights are. We will do everything we possibly can to make the permitting process a positive experience and hopefully allow the property owner to build the structure they want and can enjoy for years to come.
 
Q. Is it illegal to be on the exposed river/lake bed when the water level is down? 
A. It is illegal to operate motorized vehicles within the lake bed. Doing this may cause erosion and could destroy fish habitat. It may also be considered a trespass on Alabama Power Company Property.
  
Q. Who regulates that activity if there is someone on the river/lake bed? 
A.The entire project boundary is monitored by the local Shoreline Office. Appropriate law enforcement or Alabama Power Company Security may be notified depending on the violation.

 
Q. What types of materials would be approved  
for a sea wall?

A. Most any type material is allowed with the exception of new creosote. If a customer is considering building a sea wall they should contact the local Shoreline Office before construction.  In general, sea walls can be built out of wood, cement, or block, but before customers begin they should discuss with the Alabama Power Company Shoreline representatives.

 
FYI: Many precast wall materials are available at relatively low cost and can make the DIY retaining wall or seawall look like professional work

Q. What are the most common violations you see?          
A. Activities within the Scenic Easement. Some customers are not aware that Alabama Power Company has property rights outside the full pool area of the reservoir. The scenic easement around Lake Harris extends above the full pull elevation to the 800 foot contour. Any construction, tree removal, or vegetation removal is very limited within the scenic easement.
 

 
Q. What are the fines for the most common violations?
A. All violations are handled on a case-by-case basis. Usually some type of mitigation can correct  an encroachment. Mitigation can include removal, redesign or relocation of a structure, re-planting vegetation or trees or potential monetary mitigation in serious cases.

Q. Is there any advice you would give a new land owner wanting to make improvements?
A. Just call the local Shoreline Office before you buy or build on lakefront property. Our staff will be more than willing to meet lot owners or potential buyers on lots to discuss future plans. There is no charge to meet customers to discuss their options while they are considering the purchase of a lot.

 For information or to set an appointment please call 256-396-5093. You may also download the Alabama Power Shoreline Management Permit Application at www.alabamapower.com/lakes/pdfs/harris_guidelines.pdf

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