Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
On Friday, Rep. Mark Meadows’ (R-NC) proposal to stop the Tennessee Valley Authority’s plan to ban floating cabins was signed into law by President Obama. The proposal passed the Senate as an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA) earlier this month.
Earlier this year in April, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) announced its intention to eventually outlaw floating cabins by proposing a 30-year “sunset” provision. The change proposed doing away with more than 1,800 houseboats that occupy portions of lakes under the TVA’s control.
The TVA is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power distributors serving nine million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA receives no taxpayer funding, deriving virtually all of its revenues from sales of electricity. In addition to operating and investing its revenues in its electric system, TVA provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and assists local power companies and state and local governments with economic development and job creation.
The policy would negatively impact nearly 400 floating cabin owners on Lake Fontana in North Carolina, forcing hundreds of families to move from homes they have lived in for years while disastrously affecting their private assets and property values. The economies of nearby counties, particularly Swain and Graham County, would also feel significant negative effects.
The Subcommittee on Government Operations, which Rep. Meadows chairs, held a hearing on this issue in September that included two witnesses from Western North Carolina: Laura Sneed, founder of Fontana Families for Floating Houses who lives in Cherokee and whose family owns two floating homes on Fontana, and David Monteith, vice chairman of the Swain County Board of Commissioners
“The TVA’s decision to ban floating cabins has already had devastating effects for hundreds of hard-working owners and the surrounding economy in my district–even well before the 30-year timeline expires,” Rep. Meadows said. “The federal government has a bad habit of getting involved in the lives of tax-paying families without seriously evaluating the consequences. This case is a classic example. I am thrilled to see the amendment become law, and while there is work to be done, I hope that this measure can play a small role in sending a message that this kind of government overreach will not be tolerated.”
Fontana Lake is just one of the lakes under the TVA’s control, and Rep. Meadows venture to have the measure repealed followed concerns from residents in Graham and Swain counties that the TVA’s reason for eliminating houseboats, which cited water quality and standard enforcement issues within the TVA, didn’t apply to houseboats within Meadows’ district.
As a public lake under TVA’s control, residents with houseboats on Fontana have different rules than those located on privately owned lakes in Tennessee, such as Lake Norris.
While Congressman Mark Meadows introduced the bill to save the houseboats in September, Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, and Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC, also introduced a Senate version of the bill.