The rocks placed along a shoreline to control erosion are referred to as rip-rap (not riff-raff!). Is a rip-rapped shoreline desirable? If the property you want does not have this, can you get it? Well, it depends.
A rip-rapped vs. a grassy shoreline is a matter of preference. Generally, if you have a steep, sharply cut bank at the shoreline, you will want to have rip-rap as protection against erosion. The majority of developed lots and homes already have this in place if it is needed. If it should have been in place but is not, some measures can be taken. Check the Shoreline Management Plan for more information.
Can you automatically have rip-rap installed on your shoreline where you wish?
No, you cannot. The Power Company that manages Smith Mountain Lake has rules that determine what part of the shoreline can and cannot have erosion control. Generally speaking, a property that has evidence of current erosion will be eligible for rip-rap. If your property has a beach, wetlands, or a very consistent gentle slope from the land into the water, however, it is often not a good candidate for erosion control. Most people who have a beach or this type of shoreline, however, want to keep it this way and wouldn’t want rip-rap anyway.
The rule is that your lot likely qualifies as a rip-rap candidate if there is “active erosion.” Active erosion is defined by the Shoreline Management Plan as 1) areas that are bare and void of vegetation or other stabilizing material, 2) areas that are experiencing undercuts and/or sloughing off of the parent material, or 3) areas directly adjacent to the shoreline that have the potential to deposit sediment or soil material into the lake. This can be true whether the lot is flat or steep. It partially depends on the currents and boat traffic in the area of the lot.
If you have a property that is experiencing erosion, it is critical to deal with it. I know of one beautiful, nearly flat point lot owned by some wonderful folks from another area. Because they did not take the simple and relatively inexpensive measures necessary to control erosion, their lot has shrunk by 10% to 20% in size. Don’t let this happen to you!