The amount of debris removed from Leesville and Smith Mountain lakes set another record this year. Appalachian Power crews removed 10,417 tons of debris in 2020, nearly doubling the record set in 2019.
Leesville Lake accounted for 7,457 tons of the overall debris collected in 2020 with the remaining 2,960 tons coming from Smith Mountain Lake. Debris collected at Leesville Lake more than doubled from its previous record of 3,011 tons set last year. Debris collected at Smith Mountain Lake increased slightly from 2,720 tons collected last year.
“This is just an unbelievable amount of debris that these guys were able to remove in 2020,” said David Bailey, Appalachian Power manager in charge of debris removal. “This team worked under extreme conditions, sometimes 10- or 12-hour days, six days a week to get this done. To remove this amount of debris in a safe and environmentally conscious manner speaks volumes about the crews performing this work.”
Crews from both Appalachian Power and contractor Clifton F. Byrd and Sons, Inc., patrolled the 600 miles of shoreline between Smith Mountain and Leesville lakes. Lake debris, which consists of natural debris such as tree limbs, trunks and other large vegetation, was mainly removed utilizing an excavator on a 40-foot barge.
Appalachian Power hydro personnel received more than 850 reports from property and business owners advising of debris, which routinely piles up in main channels, along shorelines and in coves.
“We are very appreciative of how patient lake residents have been with us,” Bailey said. “I think most understood that the crews were working as safely and quickly as they possibly could.”
The increase in natural debris in the lakes is a direct correlation to a very wet 2020, Bailey said.
There were 18 high flow events last year, resulting in 36 triggers on the three main rivers (Roanoke, Blackwater and Pigg) that feed into the Smith Mountain Project. A trigger occurs when a river exceeds a predetermined height at a U.S. Geological Survey gauging station.
A river reaching trigger stage on any of the three rivers constitutes a high flow event. The 18 high flow events and 36 triggers broke previous highs set in 2019 of seven and 12, respectively.
Crews will continue to remove debris as necessary during the lake’s offseason. Residents and boaters can report debris by visiting www.smithmountainproject.com.