What About Water Depth and Dredging?

What About Water Depth and Dredging?

hollyLake Living, Real Estate: Buying a Home 4 Comments

What About Water Depth and Dredging?The depth of water in front of your home will affect both the value and long-term enjoyment of your home. While a few buyers are looking for shallow water to launch a certain type of craft or for children’s play off the shore, most are seeking deep water.

Though deep water is a comfort, most boat owners discover that they can launch virtually any boat from most properties at Smith Mountain Lake.

I once built and sold a home in a shallow cove with normal water depths in the two to three-foot range. The neighbor owned a medium-sized sailboat (with a much deeper hull than most power boats) which he docked there and seemed to have no trouble getting in and out. Since I show properties by boat, I regularly go in and out of many of the shallower coves on the lake and I can’t recall having a problem docking my boat. (One reason this is not a problem here is the general stability of the water level. Though virtually all properties have fixed docks, except on rare occasions the water level does not significantly affect boating).

Can I Dredge in Front of my Property to Get Deeper Water?

Well, often, but not always. There are rules that determine which properties can be dredged and which cannot.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, some of the most shallow areas are those that cannot be dredged. If the lake bottom near your lot is between 793 and 795 above sea level (this translates to up to about two feet deep or less), dredging will likely not be permitted. If the water is deeper than about two feet at full pond, then dredging of accumulated sediment (not the natural lake bottom) may be allowed.

Dredging must occur outside of the fish spawning period of March 1 through June 30. Though the governing body that oversees this is certainly not fanatically pro-environment and anti-development, these rules must be followed for the good of fish spawning and hatching within the lake, and thus for the future of the lake and all of us who enjoy it.

Some buyers assume they will be able to dredge and are later disappointed. If this is a concern for you, you may contact the Army Corps of Engineers in Christiansburg, Virginia, which issues the permits and can explain how it works. You can reach the Army Corps at (540) 382-6740. The AEP Shoreline Management Plan explains these rules in more detail. If water depth is a concern for you, you may even wish to make your offer contingent on obtaining approval to dredge your shoreline.


By the way, one strategy for obtaining a great deal is to buy a home that has a price abnormally discounted due to shallow water depth and then have the property dredged. I had a buyer who did this two years ago. Often the cost of dredging will be far less than the savings you achieve because other buyers didn’t make the effort to investigate this.

What about you? Are you looking for shallow water? Do you need deep water? Be sure to ask your realty agent to help you find out the depth of the water in front of the property you are interested in. And find out if you will ever be able to dredge if this is a concern. If you are touring the property by boat, some of this should be discovered before you even reach the property.

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Comments 4

  1. Thank you for this information. We are looking at a property but are concerned about how muddy it is when we have visited. We would like to be able to swim from the dock but upon both visits and the realtor pictures it is muddy. How do you find out if that is normal or just happenstance?

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  2. We were scheduled to look at a house today in Wirtz. The house was on the market and now off, some sort of technicality with the sellers, but their relator told ours it will go back on the market, and we could tour it now. The inlet the house is on has a 4′ depth at best. Late last evening the seller’s realtor called and said that the price was going to jump $100K because the neighborhood has decided to dredge their inlet. We cancelled the visit for now. According to the information above, they couldn’t dredge for another couple months anyhow due to spawning. Should be interesting, we will be keeping an eye on the situation.

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      Wow Tom, sorry to hear you have had such unusual issues with the home you were interested in. It is strange how things go sometimes and it’s good you seem to be taking it well. 🙂 I hope everything turns out for the best and if that is not the right home for you, that you will find another that is perfect! Best Wishes, The Team at Smith Mountain Homes

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