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Wednesday, 05 September 2007 00:00

Fontana Lake businesses close for the season

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By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer

Two of the three boat docks on the Swain County side of Fontana Lake shut their doors before Labor Day, traditionally one of the biggest money-making weekends of the season for lake businesses.

As of last week, Greasy Branch Marina and Alarka Boat Dock had ceased operations for this year. This accounts for a loss of almost $1.5 million to Swain County, according to estimates by Commissioner David Monteith, who serves as the president of the Fontana Lake Users Association.

For weeks, business owners on Fontana have watched their livelihood dry up as lake levels have plummeted to almost 50 feet below normal. The Tennessee Valley Authority has drawn down the lake in order to compensate with the worst drought in 115 years.

“The amount of water that usually reaches the reservoir is 52 percent below normal because of a lack of rain and runoff. That’s the reason you’re seeing the level out on Fontana,” said Gil Francis, a TVA media representative.

Some, though, feel that Fontana is being targeted more than other lakes in its drawdown. The TVA draws water from its reservoirs to balance the competing demands of flood control, power production, river navigation and recreation.

At last week’s county commissioners’ meeting, Monteith called for a formal meeting between TVA and dock owners, merchants, lake users and state representatives. Monteith presented a petition with the signatures of more than 500 people in support of a formal meeting.

“We need to step up and help these guys,” Monteith said to the other commissioners.

Francis said he had not yet heard of any formal requests for a meeting. He said that TVA officials traveled to area media outlets at the beginning of the summer to forewarn of lower lake levels than normal this season.

However, it appears that a formal meeting of the scale proposed by Monteith would be the first effort of its kind.

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