Owning Waterfront Property on Lake Gaston
Barney Watson - Lake Gaston Real Estate LLC – Owner / Broker / REALTOR®
Dominion Energy (VEPCO) owns Lake Gaston. They built the man-made impoundment in 1963. From the Lake Gaston Dam and Kerr Dam there is 35 miles of water and around 400 miles of shoreline. The lake has roughly 20,300 surface acres of water.
Dominion runs the hydroelectric project under a license agreement issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Dominion developed a Shoreline Management Plan (SMP). They use SMP to uphold the project, for public access and enjoyment of the Lake, and to protect the Lake’s environmental integrity. The following Construction and Use Procedures, developed and approved by the FERC, went into effect May 2022 with few changes, most existed since 1998. These same rules apply to the Roanoke Rapids Lake as well.
Dominion started buying land for the lake in the 1960’s. They bought acres and acres of farmland along the Roanoke River. The impoundment known as Lake Gaston has a project boundary, often referred to as “the high-water mark”, but Dominion recognizes it as the project boundary. At the Lake Gaston Dam the project boundary is 204 feet above mean sea level and graduates to 217 feet at Kerr Dam. Dominion owns all the land within the project boundary with few exceptions. I tell my clients, no one owns waterfront property on Lake Gaston except Dominion. The only way to tell where your property ends, and Dominion’s property starts is to get a survey.
The two classifications of Lake Gaston shoreline are: 1.) The General Development Areas. Those portions of the shoreline subdivided and platted before May 31, 1998. Or which certain development will have little or no negative impact on the environment. 2.) Special Management Areas. Those portions of the shoreline with importance which warrants special protection. Their subdivided categories are: Limited Use, Sensitive and Undevelopable. View the areas at https://www.dominionenergy.com/lakes-and-recreation/lake-gaston-and-roanoke-rapids-lake-nc/construction-and-use-procedures. The maps, listed by county, found at the bottom of that webpage.
Dominion needs a permit and approval for all activity on their property. Structures over the extension line are not allowed. Also not allowed; structures closer than15 feet from another structure. The property extension lines may be adjusted by Dominion, these lines are imaginary lines on Dominion’s property. The best way to apply for a boathouse permit is to first, get a survey, then have a boathouse builder visit the property and complete drawings. Then the permit application, with drawings and a check for $600, goes to Dominion Power. Boathouse companies can advise you on what type and size structure Dominion will approve. When it comes to placement of a structure; Dominion Energy, at its sole discretion, holds authority and their decision is final.
Allowable in the General Development Area: one structure per lot, limited in size to the footprint of 1,250 square feet. An A-Roof or Sundeck, limited to no more than 16 feet above the water surface (200 feet MSL). You may clear a 12-foot path to the boathouse for use during construction. You must replant 6 feet of that pathway. Boathouses should be 15 feet inside both extension lines unless otherwise approved by Dominion. Trimming trees and bushes from 2 ½ feet high up to 20 feet to improve your view, with an approved permit.
Allowable In the Limited Use Area: one structure per lot, limited in size to the footprint of 1,250 sq ft. An A-Roof or Sundeck, limited to no more than16 feet above the water surface (200 feet MSL). You may clear a 6 ft path to the boathouse. Boathouses should be 15 feet inside both extension lines unless otherwise approved by Dominion.
Not allowed in the Limited Use Area: removal of trees or vegetation.
Not allowed In the Sensitive and Undevelopable Area: no structures or removal of trees or vegetation.
Property owners may maintain their structures, boathouses, piers, bulkheads, riprap, etc. without a permit as long as 50% or less of the structure needs repair / maintenance. More than 50% destroyed it needs removal. Rebuilding is allowed if within current regulations and a new permit obtained. Dominion does not allow new bulkheads but will allow maintenance of the existing one. Rip-rap stone is used to protect the shoreline, a permit is needed for that.
Vegetation is not only trees and shrubs on Dominion land, but it also includes aquatic plants like; willow weed, cat tails, arrowhead, and such. I get many questions about willow weed. The Dominion’s license agreement with FERC, says willow weed is a protected species, you cannot remove willow weed from the shoreline around the lake. Nor can you spray chemicals into the lake to kill aquatic weeds. The environment and wildlife in and around Lake Gaston benefit from the aquatic weeds. Remember, Dominion owns the lake and allows us to use it.
Dominion allows dredging and stump removal during certain months only, for ingress and egress of boat traffic. Dredging is not allowed to make the water deeper at your boathouse.
When a property with a structure on Dominion’s property changes ownership, that structure permit must be transferred into the new owner(s) name. This requires a new Construction and Use Agreement to be filled out completely and submitted with proof of new ownership (a new deed or closing statement), drawings, etc and transfer fee. A transfer package can be obtained by calling the Dominion office or have your REALTOR or closing attorney handle for you.
Prohibited structures and activities on Dominion Energy property are (but not limited to) the following: fences, walls, utility sheds, swimming pools, sand beaches (no sand can be brought in from an outside source), individual boat ramps, animal shelters, satellite dishes, septic tanks or drain fields, structures for human habitation shall not be on Dominion property. No discharges from any sources are allowed into the lake waters. Irrigation pumps on the boathouse are allowed if permitted, submersible pumps my not be used in Lake Gaston.
Grandfather structures are a pier, boat slip, dock, boathouse, bulkhead or riprap that was built according to the terms of a license agreement issued by Dominion. Subject to the license agreement, the Grandfather Structure may remain upon Dominion’s property for its useful life so long as the structure remains in compliance with the size requirements and other building specifications set forth in the construction procedures in effect at the time it was built.
A permit to build a structure is valid for 12 months and construction must be completed within that period. A previously approved permit where a structure has not been built, is not Grandfathered.
Boathouses may have an enclosed storage area not to exceed 100 sq ft and shall be located no further than 10 feet from the back of the structure (landside). However, structures either located on Dominion property or over the lake water, shall not be used for human habitation nor shall be equipped with household fixtures such as sinks, showers, flush toilets, etc.
In summary, Dominion Energy owns Lake Gaston and anything we do on their land we must get their permission. The Dominion office is located at 100 Oakwood Ave in Roanoke Rapids, NC at the Roanoke Rapids Lake Dam. Their phone number is 252-535-6161. I wrote this article based on my understanding of the information presented by Dominion Energy and contained on their website. Always refer to the website for complete and up to date information. https://www.dominionenergy.com/lakes-and-recreation/lake-gaston-and-roanoke-rapids-lake-nc/construction-use-and-procedures