Debris on Leesville Lake

Barges on Smith Mountain and Leesville lake removes tons of debris each month. The amounts of debris is both lakes has significantly increased this year.

The amount of debris entering Smith Mountain and Leesville lakes has increased dramatically this year. Multiple crews with Appalachian Power have been working nearly year-round to remove logs and other objects that can be hazardous to boaters.

To date this year, Appalachian Power has removed 3,140 tons of debris. Of that, 1,410 was from Smith Mountain Lake and 1,730 was from Leesville Lake. That number is nearly equal to the 3,633 tons of debris removed in 2018.

John Shepelwich, Appalachian’s spokesman, said several factors have contributed to increase in debris. On Leesville Lake, that includes the removal of dams upstream on the Pigg River, which flows into the lake. In addition, multiple high water events since last September has pushed debris down river into both lakes.

Shepelwich said crews have been picking up more logs that are coming from land clearing or logging operations. “The trees have saw marks on them,” he said.

Appalachian Power has two debris removal barges (one on each lake) that work throughout the year. A contractor also works at each lake when needed as well.

Debris clearing is done along the heavily traveled areas of the lakes first before crews move into other areas. “Our responsibility is, first and foremost, the main channel,” Shepelwich said.

After clearing the main channel, the barges sometimes move to other areas to clear debris. Because coves may be too shallow for the barges, it can oftentimes be difficult for crews to reach that debris, Shepelwich said.

Crews also will not remove debris around docks or shorelines of homes. “If we are working in the area, and a property owner can remove it or haul it out to us, we will do our best to pick it up,” Shepelwich said. “Otherwise, the property owner might need to hire a private contractor to assist in removing.”

Residents can report debris at or by contacting the Tri-County Lakes Administrative Commission at 721-4400.