Lake Martin Voice Realty
Archive for the 'Water Level' Category
Note from John Coley: “As most will know, I am very happy that Lake Martin was granted a new winter water level of 484’ MSL (483 MD). I have written extensively about my support for this. However, it is interesting to note that a few folks around the lake have a different perspective. One of those is my friend Scott Henderson of Henderson and Coker, Inc., a local construction company. Scott penned this essay below to offer another opinion on the subject. My blog and business might be called “Lake Martin Voice,” – but I don’t claim to be THE ONLY voice of Lake Martin, just A voice. Also, since we are in the middle of a (in my opinion) very nasty national campaign season, I thought this would be a good time to present another view in a calm and rational way. I thank Scott for his thought provoking, candid opinion below.”
Want to hear a different perspective on the new low pool level for Lake Martin?
As you know we install seawalls and sometimes build piers “in the dry”. This seawall season; I looked at replacing several wooden walls as I do every year. As of January 20th when the new licensing went into effect and the water began to rise to the new low level several changes within our operation changed with it. Our normal strategy in completing our work load of seawall is to begin constructing the shorter walls as the lake recedes. As the lake drops to its lowest level we construct the taller walls up to 10 feet tall in the past. Unfortunately for us and a few of our clients; we were unable to build the taller walls this season. The taller wooden walls that we intended to replace were never in the dry. In other words; we couldn’t remove the existing walls nor could we begin the work by digging a footing because those beaches were under water. No big deal, right? My company loses the potential revenue but in reality; that is of no concern other than for the principal owners of my company. The good thing for us is that seawalls are only 10% of our annual sales. There are other concerns, not only for us but for several property owners around the lake. The walls that we were to replace are in terrible shape. The wood has failed over time as any wood does when exposed to extreme temperature swings when out of the water. The lake water itself takes its toll on the wood over time which is apparent in noticing how many piers are replaced on Lake Martin year after year. Piers are not subjected to the hydro static pressure that a wall is subjected to. Rain water swells the soil which pushes against the wood wall weakening the structure. Gravel can be put behind the wall where allowed to reduce the pressure but walls are typically backfilled with material from the lake bed. It is of my opinion that the only materials that will hold up to the pressure is concrete and steel.
With that said; those walls that we were unable to get to will most likely end up in the lake floating aimlessly until coming to rest in some slough with other debris such as driftwood or garbage. Hopefully, the wood from the wall will not end up being a hazard for a boater or skier. There are a few other contractors that install walls and I would think that they have several jobs that they were unable to do.
So what happens with the land that was once protected by the wooden seawall? It is my understand that the lake will only be dropped 10 feet every five years. After the wall fails completely; the property behind the failed wall will continue to erode away and it too will end up in beautiful Lake Martin. Unfortunately for the property owner; I would think that the loss of property translates into the loss of value. One wall in particular that I looked at replacing actually had fissures behind it where the soil is giving way with the wall five feet or so behind it. That means that rather than the soil slowly eroding away; once the wall fails completely, that five feet of embankment will cave off entirely into the lake.
Is there a way to keep us from losing our valuable property? What about rip rap? Alas, a simple inexpensive way to protect our shoreline under most any circumstance! With the water up, it can be placed from above the embankment, right? It can, but not in some particular cases. What contractor will place machinery on an embankment that is about to fall? I know I would not attempt it with our equipment! What about placing the rip rap from a barge? It could be done. The problem with using a barge is that there is a limit to how much material can be transported on a barge. When placing rip rap by land, it is usually hauled in by large dump trucks and stockpiled on the property being worked or somewhere close to the job, scooped up with machinery, then placed on the embankment. We do not own a barge yet, but we have rented one from the dock companies and they are understandably expensive to rent. In doing the math, it is of my assessment that rip rapping by barge would be terribly expensive and a very slow process if achievable.
In some cases rip rap can be places from the top as long as the soil is stable enough to support the necessary machinery. When placed from the top, it takes room to work. Sometimes there are trees in the way so the trade off in placing from the top may be losing established trees.
From a contractor prospective; I am not thrilled about the new low pool. Since I am and have been a part time or full time resident of Lake Martin; I have somewhat mixed emotions about the change. I am truly for what ever is best for Lake Martin in the long run. I am just not sure that the rest of the residents are aware of the potential property loss that the new change could bring. Plus, with the limited access created by the new rule curve, I am not sure how many contractors will continue to stay equipped to build seawalls. I know that our plan is to continue installing walls and rip rapping where we can.
Is Lake Martin’s full pool 490 or 491? I get some of the best ideas for blog posts from my readers and buyers around Lake Martin. Recently someone emailed me with a question regarding the new rule curve for Lake Martin and I thought I’d answer it here.
Q: I recently read your article on the Lake Martin Voice site about the winter lake level going to 483 feet instead of 480 feet as in previous years. Lower down the page in your web site article, you have posted a link to the Alabama Power announcement made in April of 2015 for this new low lake level policy. In the Alabama Power news release article, it states the new low lake level is going to be 484 feet during the winter draw down time. It states also that the technical high lake level is 491 feet in that same Alabama Power April 2015 news release/announcement.
Please let me know what your final understanding is on the new low lake level height. You may want to clarify this subject on your site.
A: The one foot difference is the difference between the unit of measure you use. It’s a difference of “sea level” and “martin datum.” The new level in winter is going to be seven feet below full pool. That’s for sure. Whether you call full pool 490 or 491 will depend on whether you call winter pool 483 or 484. Either way it’s a seven foot drop. Most of the current technical Alabama Power papers refer to full pool as 491. However they also refer to full pool as 490 on their app – Alabama Power Shorelines. Full pool at 490 is what most everyone around here uses, so that’s the unit of measure I use when I talk about full pool. Both are correct. And both yield a seven foot drop in the future.
Interested in the current Lake Martin water level? Or Lake Martin area weather? Also want to keep up with events from around the lake, places to eat, homes and lots for sale, where to shop, marinas around the lake, places to have fun, and more? Check out the Lake Martin Voice app!
The Lake Martin Voice App is available at the Apple App store here: Apple Store Link
The Lake Martin Voice App is also available for Google / Android on the Google Play Store
I am really honored to be a regular columnist for Lake Magazine. They asked me to write about the future of Lake Martin and the new Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license. To read the article on their site Click Here, or feel free to read:
The wait is over. We knew it was coming. That was made clear back in April of 2015, but until we got the real copy of the FERC license in our (digital) hands, we did not dare strut too much. Now we know the reality – for the next 30 years, as long as the Lord God sends enough rain, Lake Martin will only drop 7 feet in the winter as opposed to 10. Plus, we will have a chance to keep the tub full until Oct. 15 instead of pulling the plug after Labor Day.
We at Lake Martin can now settle back and confidently plan how the next 30 years will be. 30 years! That’s practically a generation. I think the best way to consider this new license is to think about its long-term effects – effects that will come to bloom and blossom over a generation. As I have written previously, the new rule curve will only serve to improve Lake Martin and therefore our entire community and economy. This help, I think, seems pretty obvious to anyone that scans the new license. For an article from the Alabama Power Company Shorelines blog about the new license click here.
As I review the new FERC license, the first thing to grab my attention was a mention of those previous. The original one for Martin Dam started in 1923 and lasted 50 years. The next period was a 40-year license that started in 1973. So we are starting only our third license. Martin Dam 3.0. When you put it like that, it makes the lake seem pretty young, but in reality, radical change has come here since the start of our last license in 1973.
Looking at the big picture, I would say that the biggest change agent since 1973 was the development of private property. Prior to 1973, there weren’t many places on Lake Martin where you could own your own lot and home. Think about it – Russell Lands, the lake’s largest private landowner and developer, had only recently started Willow Point, its first venture. Alabama Power, the other big landowner, had sold very few, if any, lots. In the 1970s, if you had a cabin on Lake Martin, most likely it was the short-term rental of an Old Testament Russell Cabin or you owned your home but leased the lot from Alabama Power.
When you’re a renter, or at least a quasi-renter, there is little or no economic incentive to improve it.
As ownership spread in the 1980s and 1990s, so did the by products of ownership – stores, phone lines, garbage service and Internet. In the 2000s, it just kept going to include issues like environmental advocacy. Do you care as much about the water quality of a place that you rent casually? Or do you really start paying attention when you are an owner?
What new factor will play a big role in the next 30 years? It is hard for me to say. If I were forced to guess I would say it will be the rise of the Lake Martin investor. An investor can be someone that rents the property 100 percent of the time, or maybe a minority of the time. Yes, there are some owners that rent their properties out right now, but not that many when you compare us to the beach, etc. Why?
I think it is because of the relative novelty of the Lake Martin home ownership support industry. I don’t think this is an actual term, so I will try to define what I am saying.
As uptown as Lake Martin has become in the last 15 years, we are still in our infancy of companies that help one own a home, condo or lot here. Remember that about 80 percent of waterfront homeowners are not living here full time. In other second home markets, like the beach or the mountains, there are plenty of companies that will do more than just come by and cut your grass. There are entire businesses dedicated to concierge services, such as checking on your home’s condition every couple of weeks, or helping you light your hot water heater’s pilot light, or filling your kitchen full of groceries so you don’t have to shop before you come. Sure, these services might cost a bit, but for many people it will ease some of the worries of owning a second home that’s three hours from their primary residence.
When something is easier to own, it creates more demand. More demand helps prices. Higher purchase prices mean more people will also want to rent from you. It’s easier to rent your home when you have a concierge company that can help you winterize it when you need to, or change a bulb, or replace a sofa.
Will concierge companies totally change Lake Martin and usher in a significant number of Lake Martin investors? Who knows what will happen. But I do think that as Lake Martin becomes more popular in the next 30 years, we certainly will see more of them. And, I think that Lake Martin’s competitiveness versus other second home markets will be largely determined by support industries and the like. Just as the rise of the homeowner was a huge influence on the second license period, the rise of the investor could well be a big factor in the third.
And by the way, for those that might be worried about over development ruining Lake Martin, take heart. There are oodles of restrictions that the new license puts on Alabama Power. Even if the power company were not committed to responsible stewardship of Lake Martin (which it is), the new license is very specific about the use of about every inch of our waterfront.
Whether you are a renter, owner, investor, worker, boater or just a fan of Lake Martin, the next 30 years will be fun. Lord willing, I can’t wait to see how it will unfold!
FERC has officially issued Alabama Power a new 30 year license to operate Martin Dam. This is great news, but we knew it was coming. If you have been watching this for a while, you know that Lake Martin was given the word back in April of 2015 that their application was approved.
When we heard the application was approved, we at Lake Martin were extremely excited, because it meant that the new water levels were approved. The new winter water low will be 483′ – a mere seven foot drop as opposed to the ten feet that we have had for a generation.
Also, we have a conditional fall full pool period. In English – that means, provided we have the rainfall, the lake will be full pool (490) until October 15, instead of day after Labor Day rule of old.
I highly recommend reading the actual license. It is pretty long, but it gives me a slight idea of the tedium involved in the process. As an unashamed bird nerd, I got hung up on the part about red cockaded woodpeckers for about 45 minutes. There are so many other parts of it that are really interesting that I plan to cover more deeply later.
If you would like to dig into the original, here it is: FERC LICENSE
Here’s the press release from Alabama Power: FERC License for Martin
Here’s an article from the Alex City Outlook: License Issued
Like I said, we knew this was coming, so it’s not like it’s a complete surprise. It’s kind of like waiting for Christmas. You know it will finally get here, but when it does, you think, “Finally!”
If you would like to read more history about the water level at Lake Martin, please see this link, here’s everything I have written on my blog since 2007: Water Level
If this has spurred you to buy or sell a piece of waterfront real estate on Lake Martin, please call me at the number at the top of this page. Or, you can email me here: Contact.
I am a full time realtor here at Lake Martin and would love to help out.
Yes, the news we’ve been wanting is finally here – it’s official!
FERC HAS APPROVED A 483 FOOT WINTER POOL & FULL POOL IN FALL!!
FERC has been in the process of relicensing the usage permit for Alabama Power for several years. Each license lasts about 30 years, so it’s a tedious process. If you would like full coverage of this, please see past articles I have written in the Water Level category in my blog. In fact, I think the first post I wrote for my Lake Martin real estate blog back in 2007 was about its water level.
Back to the Good News
If you would like to read the official statement from FERC, please CLICK HERE for that. If you would like to download the entire EIS, CLICK HERE – but be warned, it’s a PDF and about 4.7 MB and 295 pages.
The announcement has two main parts:
- Lake Martin will only go down to 483 feet at the bottom of winter pool, as opposed to 480 in the past. Three more feet will mean a ton more homes and boat ramps will have access to the water in winter. For real estate, this means lots more homes can claim the coveted “year ’round water” prize.
- Lake Martin will remain full until October 15, instead of Labor Day. In the past, the gradual water draw down started after Labor Day, usually the first week in September. Under the new guidelines, if we have enough rain, draw down will not start until October 15. As in the past, it won’t drain overnight, but it is a slow decline that hits bottom in late November or December. Now, it the bottom will be three feet higher!
What Does This Mean? As I have said in the past, I don’t think this huge victory will raise waterfront real estate prices on Lake Martin overnight. We should not see a huge markup tomorrow. But I do think that it will provide upward pressure for the next three decades. Everyone likes water, and the higher the better. I see this as a tremendous economic impact for the area as more tourists and second homers stay around longer in the fall!! I will write more about this but for now I would like to post this and celebrate!!
Update 4-10-15: Here’s a link to Alabama Power’s Official News Release
ONE MORE ANNOUNCEMENT:
I was going to wait until tomorrow but I am giddy with excitement, so here it goes:
I have created a FREE app for the Lake Martin area!! More info CLICK HERE!
The purpose is to provide an awesome mobile real estate search, but it’s much, much more than that. I also have curated info that heretofore only locals knew – Lake Martin events, where to eat (with menus), where to shop (with hours), weather and water level, and other things to do (where to hike, where to bike, etc). Imagine, when you wonder what’s going on at the lake, you are two clicks away from it now!! Here’s what the logo looks like:
If you think the water level thing is good news, how about the fact that the creator of the universe sent His Son to die for you? That’s what Easter is all about. We are giving praise for the fact that even though God knows are hearts, our innermost thoughts and sees that we’re sinners, He sent His son to die for His children. By His Grace we are saved, no other reason. Now that’s some real good news!
Yes. Lake Martin is now bigger AND smaller.
When I talk to people about Lake Martin waterfront real estate, they are usually amazed by the size of our lake – 770 MILES of shoreline is the number I’ve told people for as long as I can remember. That’s a huge lake, especially when you consider only 30% of the shoreline is developed.
But a new measurement is showing we have even more shoreline than that! 880 miles to be exact. According to an article in the Alexander City Outlook, Alabama Power’s new measurements show the lake has MORE shoreline but LESS water (measured in acres) than previous estimates revealed. I was once a pre-engineering major, and among the many reasons I washed out was the fact that I can’t grasp how you can have more shoreline but less acreage. Nevertheless, this is interesting news!
Everyone adjust your Lake Martin trivia accordingly.
Also – according to this article, we may not know whether FERC has approved the new winter water level request until next summer. So don’t expect an answer anytime soon. These. things. just. take. a. long. time. To read more about the relicensing of Martin Dam, check out the links below:
If you’re considering a Lake Martin real estate purchase at Lake Martin, give me a call. I’d love to share my knowledge, my experience, my trials, and my errors, with a good bit of Lake Martin trivia thrown in on the side. No extra charge! John Coley 334221 5862, or click here to contact me.
The 8th Annual Tallapoosa Basin Conference
When: Friday, May 30th, 2014
Where: Auburn University Water Resources Center
559 Devall Drive
Auburn University, AL
After a two-year hiatus they have a LOT to talk about! Check out the lineup of topics:
an update on FERC relicensing in the Tallapoosa Basin,
an overview of water quality, biodiversity and university-based research in the Tallapoosa River Basin,
a presentation on the award-winning environmental education program at Radney Elementary School in Alexander City,
updates on watershed stewardship activities in the Upper, Middle and Lower Tallapoosa sub-basins, and,
how-to for basin residents who want to do their part to minimize polluting our streams, rivers and lakes.
Organizers and sponsors for this year’s conference include the Auburn University Water Resources Center, Alabama Water Watch, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, and the AU College of Agriculture. For more information, call 1-888-844-4785.
If you are unfamiliar with the winter / summer water level schedule on Lake Martin, check this site for the prior years and this year’s plan.
No need to get nerdy about the water level if you are unfamiliar. Just know that this is a great time of the year. Help celebrate as Lake Martin makes its annual journey up to full pool of 490! There’s even a Facebook page these days: Plug Day
As you probably know, Alabama Power is in the middle of the process to relicense Martin Dam. If you’re unfamiliar with this event, click here for more information. For those of you who have been following this process, you might be wondering what’s going on?
When we last left this subject, FERC held a meeting to say they had not approved a new water level rule curve (to determine what months they raise and lower the Lake Martin’s water level, and by how many feet they lower the winter water level). Alabama Power has appealed this decision to FERC and has asked FERC to reconsider the matter. If you’d like to read a copy of Alabama Power’s appeal, click here.
Basically, regarding water levels at Lake Martin, Alabama Power has appealed to FERC with two considerations:
1) Potential for downstream damage is small.
2) Potential for positive economic impact is large.
The way I understand it, FERC is not operating on any set timetable. I could be wrong on this, but I think we could hear back from them in two weeks or six months. We will hear about it when we hear about it.
My personal hope is that they grant Alabama Power’s request for a new rule curve. The new rule curve would only drop the winter level seven feet instead of ten feet, and allow for an optional full pool period extending into the fall. I think Alabama Power has done a great job in proving that there is no additional risk of flooding with a seven foot winter drop. They’ve also done a great job proving that our entire area’s economic potential would be greatly enhanced by having more water in Lake Martin. I remain optimistic that FERC will hear the appeal and make the right decision for the Lake Martin area.
As soon as I hear anything, I’ll let you know.
We only have 11 days left with a chance to positively affect Lake Martin for the next 40 years. FERC has given us a way to comment to them and let them know that we favor the 7 foot winter pool and the optional full pool into October.
It only takes 3 minutes! Do you have 180 seconds to help? Please do this before August 13.
Here’s how to eComment to FERC:
1. Go to this website by clicking on this link:
or copying this address and pasting it in your browser:
2. Click on the orange button at the top that says “eComment does not require registration, click here to proceed”
3. Fill out your information and click Authorize. It will send you a link to the email address you typed in.
4. Go to your email account and click on the link it provides
5. Select the project by searching for Lake Martin’s project number: P-349-173
6. Once you search it will offer Lake Martin as a result. Select it.
7. Type your comments in the white box. If you would like to comment in your own words, please do so. Speaking from the heart is always best. But, if you are at a lack of time or words, you may feel free to use the below, just copy and paste in the white box:
I am in full support of Alabama Power’s draft EIS for the Martin Relicensing project. In particular, I support:
1. Dropping the winter water down only 7 feet as opposed to 10,and
2. Having an optional full pool period to October 15, weather permitting.
I think the economic benefits are tremendous and will benefit thousands, and I am confidant that Alabama Power has done the research to prove the potentials for below the dam flooding, in an already existing flood zone, are minimal.
8. Submit it. That’s it! You will receive a confirmation email from FERC.
What else can you do?
1. Ask your spouse and all non-minor family members to comment. Remember, you don’t have to be a property owner to be a stakeholder.
2. Forward this to any and all other family and friends that love Lake Martin
3. Ask them all to comment ASAP, certainly before August 12.
It only takes 3 minutes and this affects your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren!
“What if” FAQ?
1. What if Lake Martin IS NOT granted this new rule curve? Will the real estate market crash as a direct result? Will the sky fall? Of course not. Lake Martin has existed for about 40 years under the current 10 foot winter drop and starting the drop after Labor Day. The market has been outstanding, in general, over those 40 years. Let’s face the facts – we will still be the Crown Jewel of the South, with or without this chance at improvement.
2. If Lake Martin IS granted the new rule curve, will the waterfront real estate prices skyrocket, and will chocolate and caramel flow from the top of Acapulco Rock like a Willy Wonka dream? Not necessarily. I am not guaranteeing anything. But I am saying that this is a historic, once in every other generation chance to improve. It’s an improvement that comes at almost no risk whatsoever. It is well worth our 3 minutes to comment and give it a shot.
If you need more info on this huge issue, click here.