Appalachian Power aggressively attacks natural debris buildup in Virginia's Leesville Lake

ROANOKE, Va., Aug. 9, 2016 – Appalachian Power, operator of the Smith Mountain Project in southwest Virginia, announced plans to aggressively attack an unusual buildup of water surface natural debris on Leesville Lake, the lower reservoir of the two-lake hydroelectric generating project. Plans include a cooperative effort with the Leesville Lake Association to immediately hire additional outside assistance.

The lake has been beset since late 2015 and during recent heavy rainstorms with the inflow of debris—including large fallen trees—from Pigg River and other tributaries.

Debris removal has been hampered by the loss of a mechanical skimmer craft that was dedicated by the company to the 17-mile long lake only last year and was recently declared unsafe for use on the water by company employees. Manufacturers’ production schedules and other factors will determine when the company receives delivery of a replacement for the skimmer—a new unit similar to a barge system now used on Smith Mountain Lake.

“Although we continue to remove debris with equipment currently available to Appalachian, we’ve essentially had a perfect storm of debris loading in Leesville,” said Elizabeth Parcell, hydro operations supervisor for Appalachian. “The company is working with the Leesville Lake Association, our own maintenance employees, and contract workers to address the situation as quickly as possible.”

“In the meantime, we urge all users of Leesville Lake to be aware of the debris situation when they are in the water and to operate watercraft in a safe manner,” she added. “We encourage lake residents and visitors to remove debris when they can and report it to the company via our website www.smithmtn.com.  Large logs may be secured in the cove located between the Leesville Picnic Area and the Leesville Dam should boaters need a location to drop off a log.”

As part of the company’s immediate response to the debris and to clear it as quickly as possible, the company will:

  • Provide $25,000 to the Leesville Lake Association. This will be used to hire and administer an outside contractor to begin immediate assistance in the cleanup of the reservoir.
  • Move quickly to purchase and have delivered a new debris removal system for exclusive set up on Leesville Lake as soon as possible. At a cost of about $400,000, this system will be similar to the equipment now in use on Smith Mountain Lake that provides more flexibility and speed allowing a more efficient operation than the skimmer operation previously used.
  • Continue to use the company’s own lake maintenance crew and additional contractors to remove debris with existing available equipment.
  • Open up additional shoreline locations where the company, contractors and boaters can tie up or drop off debris for removal.

“Appalachian Power will continue to cooperate with and gather input from residents and lake users in an effort to maintain safe operations for hydroelectric generation and recreation,” said Parcell.

Information on type of debris that Appalachian removes, frequently asked questions, and photographs are available to shoreline residents and others in the Smith Mountain Debris Management Plan at http://www.smithmtn.com/DebrisMgmtPlan/Default.aspx.

Smith Mountain Project is a 636-megawatt pumped storage hydroelectric facility on the Roanoke River that utilizes an upper reservoir (Smith Mountain Lake) and a lower reservoir (Leesville Lake).  Water stored in Smith Mountain Lake passes through turbine-generators in the powerhouse to produce electricity and is discharged into Leesville Lake.  From there some water is released through the Leesville Dam or pumped back into Smith Mountain. The project is operated by Appalachian Power. The Smith Mountain Project community is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the completion of its construction during 2016.

Appalachian Power has 1 million customers in Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee (as AEP Appalachian Power). It is a unit of American Electric Power, one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, delivering electricity and custom energy solutions to nearly 5.4 million customers in 11 states. AEP owns the nation’s largest electricity transmission system, a more than 40,000-mile network that includes more 765-kilovolt extra-high voltage transmission lines than all other U.S. transmission systems combined. AEP also operates 223,000 miles of distribution lines.  AEP ranks among the nation’s largest generators of electricity, owning approximately 31,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the U.S.






John Shepelwich

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