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Lake buoy issue on hold ’til spring

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

Pulaski County officials expect it to be April before Appalachian Power Co. (APCo) has an alternative plan for installing test navigational buoys at Claytor Lake.

Pulaski County Administrator Pete Huber said Monday that the power company presented a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) with three alternative plans for test buoys, but he expects it will be April before APCo returns to the county with a TAC-approved proposal.

As part of its dam relicensing agreement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), APCo wants to install 14 test navigational buoys in the Little Wytheville section of the lake. The markers would delineate the portion of the channel that can be safely navigated and keep boats from becoming stuck in silt deposits and other shallow waters.

However, the plan ran into problems in January when Pulaski County Board of Supervisors asked that the number of test buoys be cut in half. APCo representative Teresa Rogers said the TAC would have to consider the request before the number of test buoys can be reduced.

She expressed concern that reducing the number of test buoys might have the opposite affect and inadvertently direct boats into shallow areas.

While the supervisors are required to comment on the proposal, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) will have the final say whether they are installed. A DGIF official was unsure in January how much weight the supervisors’ opinion will carry.

During January’s meeting several lake residents and users expressed opposition to the navigational buoys. Monday night, a Claytor Lake property owner presented the supervisors with an opposition petition bearing more than 100 signatures.

The supervisors also were presented with an email from Virginia Tech football defensive coordinator Bud Foster objecting to the installation of navigational buoys in the Little Wytheville area, where he has lived full time for the past four years.

Foster indicated the channel already is narrow and that he is concerned the markers will make it even narrower and take away from the channel’s recreational value.  He suggested dredging the silt deposits would be more effective for ensuring boater safety.

If the test buoys are installed and DGIF determines they are needed, APCo’s Aids to Navigation Plan calls for 70 of the channel markers to eventually be installed at various parts of the lake.