People Concerned About Water Levels at Smith Mountain Lake

Franklin Co., VA - With all of this wet winter weather, water levels have been increasing quickly, and that allowed Smith Mountain Lake to reach full pond on Monday for the first time in seven months.

That came just in time for Appalachian Power to release more than a foot of that water into Leesville Lake.

For some people, watching the water level at Smith Mountain Lake is a big deal and considering the recent drought issues, watching such a dramatic drop after finally hitting full pond had some folks wondering why.

When Jody Draper isn't taking care of his customers at Salem Pizza and Subs, he's thinking about his other passion in life: Fishing.

"I like to know what the water levels are because you can't get the boat in sometimes," he said.

So when he noticed more than a foot of water disappear seemingly hours after the lake finally reached full pond, he contacted ABC 13 to find out why.

"When you get up to full pond, you're thinking, 'Alright, it's back to where it is.' Then you look and it dropped a foot in four hours... It's just sort of, 'What are they doing. I don't understand.'."

Appalachian Power is allowed to use two feet of water at any given time to generate electricity whether the lake is at full pond or not.

"We are at full pond and we've used about a foot of the water out of Smith Mountain to generate electricity. That water is still there; it's captured in Leesville and we can reverse the pumps and put it back into Smith Mountain," said Todd Burns, spokesperson for Appalachian Power.

Maybe more noticeable to some recently, considering the previous four months at the lake have seen levels fluctuate from being down 2.5 to 4.5 feet below full pond.

Last week, the reservoir was adding one foot a day before reaching full pond, for the first time since June.

"I've just never seen it spike a foot in four hours but I'm not on it 24 hours a day either," said Draper.

"The dam was built to make electricity and we use a lot of it these days," said Burns.

The dual reservoir system between Smith Mountain and Leesville Lake is called a pump storage project because of the project's ability to replace the water drawn from Smith Mountain Lake using those reverse pumps to draw it back from Leesville Lake. So to get the accurate lake level you need to look at the adjusted level where you will see that Smith Mountain Lake is still at full pond.