Smith Mountain Lake Hydroelectric Power

Relicensing for Hydroelectic Power

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Smith Mountain Lake DamIn the Smith Mountain Lake section of the Roanoke Times Online, you can find a wealth of information regarding life at the lake. For instance, I was unaware that the license for AEP to operate the hydroelectric power production at Smith Mountain and Leesville Dams must be renewed every so many years. And we are coming up on that deadline, as you can read below in the quotes from Laurie Edwards’s article in the Times Online.

In 1960, the Federal Power Commission granted American Electric Power a 50-year license to build and operate the Smith Mountain and Leesville dams. After six years of work, Smith Mountain and Leesville lakes were formed and AEP began generating electricity for commercial use. With the application expiring in three years, AEP officials are busy with paperwork to file for a new license. “We’ve been working on it almost five years,” said John Shepelwich, a spokesman for Appalachian Power, a unit of AEP.

AEP created a Web site ( to allow lake residents to track the process.

Correspondence related to the license, study plans, and public meeting transcripts are available online in their entirety.

“Every meeting that we have is publicized,” said Frank Simms (of AEP). “We have no meetings that the public is not able to attend. We want their [the public’s] input. We want them to know what we’re doing.”

He added that AEP has surpassed FERC recommendations — FERC requires two public meetings; AEP has already held four. Currently, AEP is finalizing recommendations for the license application based on 15 studies on how the lake should be managed, including water withdrawal, navigational markers, and erosion.

The studies were selected by AEP and lake stakeholders — federal and state agencies, local governments, non-governmental organizations, citizen groups, and individuals. Simms said he’s fairly confident that AEP will be relicensed by FERC in 2009.“We want people to know we care about the lake and we take our responsibility very seriously,” he said.

Shepelwich said the lake is very important to AEP employees, many of whom can point out friends, relatives, and former employees in 1960s photos of the dams under construction.

At the core, Shepelwich and Simms said AEP is part of the lake community. While Smith Mountain Lake is a recreational hot spot in the region, it’s also a powerhouse of electricity.

“Those two dams out there were constructed by AEP for power generation,” said Simms. “People have to realize they’re living on a power plant.”

Thanks to Laurie Edwards of the Roanoke Times Online.

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