Now that a new law says existing floating homes can remain on TVA lakes, owners are gearing up for discussions with TVA about annual fees and regulations.
In mid-December, President Obama signed legislation that overturned a May 2016 decision by TVA to force owners of floating homes to remove the structures within 30 years. The new law still permits TVA to ban any new floating homes from surfacing on its lakes.
Tyson McGhee has owned a floating home on Norris Lake for around seven years, uses the structure for weekend vacations, and said the new legislation was a pleasant end to a "roller coaster ride" in 2016.
"When TVA had basically banned all floating homes and forced removal within 30 years, it was devastating. In the beginning, we didn't really think we were going to have much say in it," said McGhee. "I was surprised that the process worked. You know, that the people were actually able to have a say in this. The political system worked."
McGhee and dozens of other floating homeowners formed a non-profit group called the Tennessee Valley Floating Homes Alliance (TVFHA), lobbied lawmakers, and turned the legal tide in their favor.
McGhee said he has no objections to TVA's authority to prevent any new floating homes on the lakes. TVA said in 2015 there were more than 1,800 of the floating abodes on its waterways.
"We understood they wanted to keep it from getting out of control," said McGhee. "We did want to have regulations, we thought that would be fine. But the removal of the floating homes [within 30 years] devalued all the houseboats that were out here."
In the next few months, McGhee anticipates public hearings by TVA to discuss regulations and fees for existing floating homes. There is some fear among owners of floating homes that TVA will attempt to force homes off the lake with exorbitant fees many people cannot afford.
"The figure TVA mentioned last year was 50 cents per square foot. We think that is really excessive," said McGhee. "That's more than what you would pay in taxes for lakefront property on the land that comes with services such as sewer and electricity. This fee would not come with any services. We are already paying around $250 a month to the marina for a mooring fee, some of which goes from the marina to TVA. You get a larger houseboat, you're talking $1,500 to $2,000 per year, which is a brand new fee that goes straight to TVA."
McGhee said TVFHA looks forward to working with TVA to create fees and regulations both sides believe are reasonable.
"We want to make sure everyone is doing the right thing. We want to keep the water clean. TVA mentioned concerns about sewage into the lake. Floating homeowners do not want that at all. That's our water. That's what we swim in," said McGhee.