Owners of floating homes called the new Tennessee Valley Authority regulations “disappointing” and “disheartening” on Friday night, after the utility approved a 30 year sunset rule for existing homes Thursday.
At a board of directors meeting Thursday in West Tennessee, TVA president Bill Johnson recommended that the board approve a thirty year sunset rule for existing floating houses. The owners will also have to meet specific safety and environmental regulations to stay there, and TVA will not issue any new permits.
Board members voted to approve the proposal.
But homeowners who live on the lake, at least part of the year, told 10News they were disappointed.
“It was a little disheartening,” said Mike Wilkes, the president of the Tennessee Valley Floating Homes Alliance. “But 30 years is a long time and I think the TVA will work with us, they stated yesterday that they were going to reach out and try to work with stakeholders in looking at the regulations moving forward.”
TVA has been concerned about the floating homes, which are anchored on barges in places like Norris Lake, for some time. The owners pay fees to the local marinas, but not to TVA, and they don't pay property taxes.
Officials estimate there are roughly 1,800 floating homes on its lakes and they worry about their safety and the environment.
But local homeowners said while some people may not be in compliance, most of them were careful to keep the water clean.
Wilkes, who lives at Shanghai Marina in La Follette during the summer, said homeowners there have a pumping agreement all summer to handle sewage.
“Whether we’re using it or not, they’re pumping out the tanks,” he said.
TVA argues that the utility’s primary concern is to make sure that the environment remains safe and easily navigable.
“We're trying to make certain that, one public waterways remain available to all of the public but the biggest concern is from a safety perspective,” said Jim Hopson, a TVA spokesperson, in February. “With the size of these floating houses, they’re starting to eat up an increasingly large amount of public waterway that will prevent other members of the public who jointly own these waters from safely accessing them.
Campbell County tourism officials said the new TVA rules will likely hurt them in a big way.
Cindi Reynolds, director of tourism for Campbell County Chamber of Commerce said tourism is the county’s number one industry, and provides about $55 million in spending each year.
She said TVA’s action will have an “immediate” impact on the county.
“It’s going to be hard on us economically,” she said.
There are 11 marinas on Norris Lake in Campbell County, according to Reynolds.
“All of those marinas have floating homes,” she explained.
She told 10News the marinas all rent floating homes – so losing them means losing rental income.
“The homes have been here for so long that they’re part of our life up here,” Reynolds said. “When people come to the lake they want to stay on the lake.”
Wilkes echoed that sentiment, and explained many of the floating home owners aren’t from Campbell County, but rather surrounding states.
“You have to remember that we’re not all from Tennessee. I mean, we come from Ohio, we come from Kentucky, Indiana, you know,” he said. “It is a herd, and this house was purchased as a legacy for the kids, and we want them to be able to enjoy it.”