Floating Houses

In February 2016, TVA completed an environmental review of the management of floating houses and nonnavigable houseboats mooring on TVA reservoirs. The review was initiated in April 2014 out of concern for safety, sanitation, water quality and fair use of public lands and reservoirs.

Floating houses are a modern version of the pre-1978 nonnavigable houseboats. Floating houses are considered to be structures designed and used primarily for human habitation rather than for the primary purpose of recreational boating or water transportation.

“Nonnavigable houseboat” is the term found in TVA’s regulations that refers to early-era floating houses that existed on TVA reservoirs when TVA amended its regulations in 1971 and 1978. At that time, TVA grandfathered and issued permits to the existing “nonnavigable houseboats,” but prohibited new ones going forward.


The Concern

The number of these structures has increased. TVA initiated the review out of concern for safety, sanitation, water quality and the use of public lands and reservoirs.

Currently, over 1,800 floating houses and nonnavigable houseboats are on the reservoirs. Only about half of those have TVA nonnavigable houseboat permits. TVA regulations prohibit nonnavigable houseboats except for those in existence before February 15, 1978. Section 26a of the TVA Act gives TVA jurisdiction to regulate obstructions that affect navigation, flood control or public lands across, along or in the Tennessee River or any of its tributaries.

Learn more about the Section 26a permitting regulation and process.

Learn more about the TVA Land Policy.

Environmental Impact Statement

On April 30, 2014, TVA published in the Federal Register a Notice of Intent to complete an environmental impact statement (EIS), in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), to review the growth in the Tennessee River watershed of floating houses and nonnavigable houseboats designed and used primarily for human habitation and to consider future management alternatives. During the initial scoping period, TVA received input from the public and other stakeholders on relevant issues, concerns and potential management actions. Meetings were held around the Tennessee Valley for the public to learn more about the review and provide comments. This outreach effort and the public's input is described in a Scoping Report completed by TVA in February 2015.

In June 2015, TVA issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement that reviewed a variety of new policy alternatives and assessed their environmental impacts. During the review period, TVA held additional public meetings and the public and other stakeholders were invited to review the Draft EIS and provide additional input.

In February 2016, after consideration of input received on the Draft EIS, TVA completed its Final EIS and identified its preferred policy alternative. Public and stakeholder comments and TVA’s responses are included in an appendix to the Final EIS. Under the preferred alternative, TVA would permit existing floating houses if such structures meet new standards and would allow floating houses and previously permitted nonnavigable houseboats to be moored on TVA reservoirs for a 20-year period.

PDF files require Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Floating Houses Policy Review Final Environmental Impact Statement (PDF 9.4 mb)

Final Environmental Impact Statement Executive Summary (PDF 713 kb)

Next Steps

TVA is beginning the process to formally establish regulations to implement the policy (e.g., standards and permitting requirements). The proposed regulations for floating houses will be available soon for public review and comment.

The proposed policy to grandfather existing floating houses meeting required standards, and sunset both floating houses and nonnavigable houseboats for removal in 20 years, will be recommended to the TVA Board of Directors for consideration at their meeting in May. Upon approval of the policy by the TVA Board and following the public comment period, final rules will be published in the Federal Register and further communicated to stakeholders.


For general information about the floating houses review, please contact:

Robert Farrell
Floating Houses Project Manager
Tennessee Valley Authority
400 West Summit Hill Drive
Knoxville, TN 37902
(865) 632-3024


  • Floating House Policy Frequently Asked Questions