Some homeowners in Butler have seen their shorelines recede more than the high water at Watauga Lake that continues to saturate their property.
“The problem that we have and our neighbors on the lake have has been a long-ongoing situation, but is exacerbated by what has occurred with the rain and high water,” Watauga Lake homeowner Louise Woodhall said.
“We have tried over the years to stabilize our shoreline. We lost some land and so have our neighbors.”
About 10 feet of property along 25 feet of shoreline has eroded on her property, Woodhall said.
“We have a high shoreline because it’s in the mountains and over time the erosion has undercut the earth,” Woodhall said. “When we have a tremendous rainfall, there’s nothing under there to hold this earth. It gets overburdened with water and it crumbles away.”
The Tennessee Valley Authority reported record water levels for Watauga Lake of 1,966.5 feet above sea level, which is 3 feet higher than the previous record.
The TVA said damage has been minimal because it is able to control the flow of water into tributaries and rivers.
Water was not initially released from Watauga to prevent flooding in northern Alabama along the Tennessee River, so a cloudburst that formed over the lake Monday caused flooding in Butler and other areas.
Timbered Ridge Homes owner Larry Trivette, who lives in a corporate home beside Woodhall, said the amount of lake water over the past few days was unexpected.
“I’ve built houses here for 10-12 years,” Trivette said. “There’s been nothing like this.”
Woodhall said increases and decreases of water levels over time have caused erosion along their shore.
“When the water is down you can see tiers and tiers on the shoreline where there has been erosion,” Woodhall said.
“Over the course of time, we’ve lost a lot of land and if something is not done, eventually it’s going to be at the door. It’s beautiful here, but we’re almost to the point of being sick about it.”
Within the last three days, Woodhall has seen the lake engulf parts of her dock and expedite erosion of her land.
“Their land has eroded off every day a little bit more,” said Trivette, who is also the Woodhalls’ general contractor.
The Woodhalls have owned property on the Watauga Lake near Pioneer Landing since 1994.
“When we bought this property we had no idea what we would be getting into,” Woodhall said. “(Erosion) has continued to get worse and worse.”
Woodhall said she and her husband hired two different civil engineers to assess the shoreline and ways to prevent the land from eroding. Trivette said a cost estimate is around $250,000.
Rain forecast for the next few days highly concerns the Woodhalls and Trivette.
“We worry constantly about the rain,” Trivette said.
TVA previously said upcoming rain should not impact Watauga water levels the same way.
Reports of little to no damage from Watauga’s record-high water levels prompted the Woodhalls to call the county emergency management agency to report the erosion Thursday.
Johnson County Emergency Management Director Jason Blevins said Woodhall was the first to report any damage in the county.
“With erosion like that, it’s really not our area,” Blevins said. “We deal more with living spaces and living areas. ... I’m not for sure where the jurisdiction lies with that because we’ve never been faced with damage reports like that before.”
TVA spokesman Bill Sitton said the TVA is doing all it can to minimize damage to all homeowners along the Watauga as well as down river.
“Unfortunately this is one of those situations where because of this extreme wet weather and the fact that this property is on a reservoir designed for flood control ... we’ve got to make decisions about where the water is going to go and the best decision right now for us is to store in the reservoir what we can,” Sitton said.
Woodhall and Trivette said they think TVA needs to pay more attention when adjusting water levels.
“I think it’s TVA’s responsibility to work with the homeowners and property owners,” Woodhall said. “We need the water level to be taken down at some point and scheduled so that property owners can do shoreline stabilization.”
Large pieces of equipment would need to be used to transport the right materials to the site, she said.
“We have no way of getting anything down there to stabilize it,” Woodhall said. “We just need some help, otherwise this section is going to be dramatically impacted.”
Trivette said the area could be affected not only environmentally, but economically as well.
“We just need help,” Trivette said. “It could be more than just the obvious. We don’t want to wait until everybody’s banks fall off. From an economic standpoint, these people who have these houses reserved are not going to be able to hang out at the lake. All these people come to this area for the lake and now you can’t even bring a boat because the docks are flooded.”