Claiborne Commission asking legislators to rethink prelude to removing Norris Lake floating houses

The Claiborne Commission voted unanimously last week to ask the state legislators and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to rethink pending regulations that, if adopted this summer, would require major updates and stiff permit fees for those who own post-1978 houseboats and other non-navigable water craft.

The proposed regulations, commonly referred to as the “Sunset Date,” are a prelude to the TVA’s plans to eventually remove all floating houses from its waterways within the next 20 years.

Commissioner James Hatmaker said the proposed regulations would put a burden on area marinas.

According to a draft of the TVA Environmental Impact Statement, Norris Lake alone has an estimated 921 floating houses that take up some 644 existing footprint acres within 24 marinas.

There are 15 other TVA regulated reservoirs, according to the Statement, that would be affected by the new legislation.

If the new regulations are adopted, the annual permit fees would be based on the size of the structure and any attached decks, docks or floats. The fee would be figured at a minimum $200 or 50 cents per square foot.

Styrofoam that is not encased would be outlawed whenever floating material is replaced. The owner would be required to provide GFCI protection for all power sources not to exceed 100 milliamperes.

Discharges of sewage and other wastewater would be required to meet federal, state and local standards, according to information on the Tennessee Valley Authority website.

Once the proposed regulations become effective, owners would have two years in which to pay a $500 processing fee, apply for the permit and certify that they are compliant with the new standards. However, a notice of intent and the application for a permit must be filed within six months or the owner will be required to remove the structure at his own expense, according to the TVA website.

The Tennessee Valley Authority will make a case-by-case determination for those who own factory-produced houseboats that no longer have the capability for transportation. If its navigation abilities are restored, this type of houseboat will likely be exempt from the new standards.

Those with floating houses fronting private property will also be exempt from the regulations. The owners will be required to certify that all standards are in compliance. If not approved for a location outside a marina harbor, the owner will be required to move the floating house to a marina.

With the approval of TVA, owners may rebuild a floating house. Expansion, however, would not be permitted, due to the requirement that the footprint remain the same.

The new standards seem to be the result of TVA’s concern about the environmental and safety impacts of houseboats and non-navigable craft along its waterways. The agency also seems to be worried about the rise in the number of those owners who do not carry permits.

The Tennessee Valley Authority has the ability under the existing regulations in 26a of the TVA Act to regulate any obstructions to navigation and flood control. The TVA also has jurisdiction to any public land along, across or in any Tennessee River and its tributaries, according to information on the TVA website.

If adopted this summer, the new regulations will go into effect later this year. For more information, log onto

Comments Closed

Comments are closed.