September 6, 2008

Tlac Delays Response to Coast Guard

By Laurie Edwards

After a lengthy discussion, the Tri-County Lake Administrative Commission on Tuesday voted by a slim margin to postpone responding to the U.S. Coast Guard regarding the conversion of the lake's navigation system.

On July 9, TLAC, which maintains the lake's navigational markers, received a letter from the Coast Guard requesting TLAC submit an application by Nov. 9 detailing how the board would undergo the conversion to Coast Guard-approved markers.

The current navigation system is not in compliance with the Coast Guard's system, which is required on all state waterways. The Coast Guard and TLAC have been discussing how and when Smith Mountain Lake's navigation markers will be replaced since the Coast Guard alerted the board two years ago that the markers did not meet federal standards.

Stan Smith, chairman of TLAC's Navigation Committee, supplied the board with a draft letter the committee composed in response.

The letter summarizes Appalachian Power's navigation management plan, part of its relicensing application, which proposes the power company assume responsibility for converting and maintaining the navigation markers while working cooperatively with TLAC.

The draft letter states that TLAC will provide data on its existing system, but "the details of the actual conversion will have to wait until it is clear who will assume the responsibility for the actual physical change."

Board member Ralph Brush voiced concerns about the response. He said by submitting the letter, TLAC would be taking responsibility for the navigation system and that the board should not rush to reply before the Nov. 9 deadline.

"There is so much going on right now with TCRC [Tri-County Relicensing Committee] and APCO," he said. "We could learn an awful lot in the next two months."

TCRC is a board comprised of lake officials who are reviewing Appalachian's relicensing application to submit responses and suggestions.

Brush's motion to table the discussion until the October meeting passed by a 5-4 vote, with Liz Parcell, Appalachian representative, abstaining.

Chairman Chuck Neudorfer requested that board members review the letter and e-mail him their comments and concerns within two weeks.

In other TLAC news:

n The board voted unanimously to send comments concerning Appalachian's aquatic vegetation and debris management plans to TCRC. The comments, which were compiled by TLAC's Environmental Committee, include concerns about disagreements between TLAC and Appalachian over how debris and invasive aquatic vegetation will be removed from the lake, said Bob Camicia, chairman of TLAC's Environmental Committee.

n The board also voted unanimously to send comments concerning Appalachian's navigation plan to TCRC. The comments, which were compiled by TLAC's Navigation Committee, emphasize two major concerns: maintenance of shoal markers outside the defined waterway and who will be responsible for the marker conversion, said Smith.

n Pam Dinkle, lake management and project coordinator, said more than 50 acres have been treated so far this year for invasive aquatic vegetation. She said the total cost may be under $30,000, compared to about $70,000 last year when hydrilla was initially treated at the lake.

LAURIE EDWARDS | Laker Weekly 721.4675 (ext. 406)

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