Boone Lake boaters staying level headed through water depth drop

Tony Casey • Nov 10, 2013 at 9:31 PM

Although he didn’t see it coming, Doug Sams, owner of Rockingham Marina, said he’s well prepared for the Tennessee Valley Authority’s work on Boone Lake’s dam gate system.

The work, which will drop Boone Lake’s level down 14 feet lower than its usual winter level, requires replacement of the dam’s 60-year-old chains and cables.

Sams’ marina, which already boasts some of the deeper waters on the lake, will require him to move all of his docks to slightly greater depths. He said if everything goes to plan, and he has no expectations for it to go any other way, it will only take about a day and a half.

He and his father-in-law, Jim Stark, were already unanchoring portions of the dock and moving them to those deeper waters. Sams said some of his customers have contacted him about the drawdown, and were put at ease upon learning about the plan to move the docks to an area of deeper water.

Larry Bell, who’s been on the lake his whole life, said he wasn’t worried about the water levels as he was putting a cover on his pontoon boat for the last time this year at Rockingham Marina.

“We’re in good hands,” Bell said.

Sams said he was thoughtful of the people who have boats on areas of the lake where the water isn’t quite so deep. He designs and sells docks for residential use, and says some of them might not be designed for a 14-foot drop, but only time will tell. Because his business revolves around the lake, he understands the need to maintain and take care of the body of water and dam.

Around Jay’s Marina, those with boats on the docks weren’t concerned, either, with the water levels. One man said he’s going to go about winterizing his boat as usual, and joked that if he had to, he’d just spend the winter floating around the deeper parts of the lake on his boat, and not bother to dock. He said his only worry would be the docks shifting so much that they would pull out electrical cords.

Just a few lots past Jay’s Marina, were Mike Phillips, Larry Laney, and Campbell Kiser, who were all working on a project to make their docks more accessible during the winter. Because the water levels had dropped, the angle of the ramp down to the docks which held their boats had also dropped so dramatically that they were nearly unwalkable. Laney, a welder, put together a set of stairs that the three of them were attaching.

Some of their wives were down near their boats, working on dock upkeep, too.

Sandra Laney said she was anxious about where the water level would end up, noting that it had dropped about eight feet already. She put into perspective where the boats would be in relation to a nearby house on the water, and said where they would be almost 10 feet under water.

Boaters were warned by TVA to use caution on the lake, saying that lower levels would expose hazards that would typically be covered with more water. Crunch time will be around the first few weeks of the year, when the TVA will quickly drop levels to give workers time to work on the dam.

Workers at Sonny’s Marina said they don’t have anything to worry about, because of their location, they’re used to their bay going dry.

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