By MELINDA WILLIAMS
Silt is building up so high in some areas of Claytor Lake that it’s not uncommon to find boaters stuck on silt bars, according to Pulaski County Administrator Peter Huber.
Huber, a pilot, flew over the lake during the recent drawdown to get some pictures of the silt problem to share with Pulaski County Board of Supervisors.
The areas of silt buildup were readily visible in the photographs since the water level had been lowered three feet to allow for shoreline maintenance. However, Huber pointed out the silt bars are normally not as easy to spot.
He said the primary problem begins above Lighthouse Bridge. “Boaters see wide-open water, but if they’re not familiar with that part of the lake, they’ll take off across that water and end up stuck in the mud, which is pretty difficult to extract yourself from,” he said.
As part of its re-licensing to operate the dam, Appalachian Power Co. is proposing to install new navigational buoys to help mark these areas of danger.
Huber said the proposal would mark the whole channel. “These high danger areas, for sure, need to be marked, but the rest would be beneficial if you didn’t know the lake,” he said. “The navigational buoys should help these particular areas.”
Without the markers, he said a boater that doesn’t know the lake well “could easily get in trouble.”
APCo’s proposed Aids to Navigation Management Plan would add 68 new navigational buoys at Claytor Lake, in addition to the 39 No Wake, No Boat, Swimming Area, Danger Rock and Mooring buoys already there.
“Siltation is the issue. There’s no easy answer to it,” Huber told the supervisors.
He said there are maps that show what is thought to be the lake bottom contours. However, he said, “that changes every year.”
If approved by Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and Pulaski County Board of Supervisors, Friends of Claytor Lake (FOCL) says APCo plans to install markers as a “test” in the Little Wytheville area this winter.
The markers will contain small strobe lights to help boaters navigate the lake at night.
FOCL has a copy of the plan on its website, www.focl.org, and is seeking feedback from the public.