Floating Houses

On May 5, 2016, the TVA Board of Directors approved a policy to allow existing nonnavigable houseboats and floating houses to remain in place for 30 years if they have a permit and are in compliance with the permit

The mooring of new floating houses and other nonnavigable structures used primarily for habitation on the TVA reservoir system is prohibited. All floating houses, including previously permitted nonnavigable houseboats, must be removed from the TVA reservoir system no later than May 5, 2046.

See the Policy Governing Floating Houses on the TVA Reservoir System.

Next Steps

To support the policy, proposed rule amendments will be developed for public review. Before the proposed rule amendments are published, TVA staff will receive input from affected stakeholders and interested parties from May 2016 through September 2016 on the future regulations and how to best implement the policy. If you are interested in providing comments or talking with TVA, please call or send an email to the contact below.

The proposed rules will require floating house owners to meet minimum safety and environmental standards and pay an annual fee. The proposed rule amendments and fee structure are scheduled to be posted later this year for public comment.

TVA will publish a notice of proposed rule making in the Federal Register and accept comments during a public comment period. After the public comment period, it is anticipated final rule amendments will be published and made effective later in 2016.

What you should do now until the rules are effective:

  • Don’t build any new floating houses.
  • Review your permit.
  • If selling a nonnavigable houseboat, review your permit and ensure it is in strict compliance, and make buyer aware of the upcoming changes.
  • If buying a nonnavigable houseboat, review the permit and ensure it is in strict compliance, and make application to TVA for the transfer within 30 days of the transfer transaction. (TVA recommends buyer review permit with TVA before purchase.)
  • If selling an unpermitted floating house, communicate to buyer that the structure will need a permit from TVA and will be required to meet standards, and will be subject to annual fees.
  • If buying an unpermitted floating house, read the information on this website and understand you will be required to meet standards, obtain a permit from TVA, and be subject to annual fees.
  • Visit this site frequently for updates and new information.
  • Comment on the proposed rules when they are published.

Email TVA if you have questions or to request a meeting 

The Concern

The number of these structures has increased and their appearance and use have become more like houses than boats. TVA initiated the review out of concern for the use of public lands, safety, sanitation and water quality.

As of July 2015, about 1,830 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

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

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.

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. In the Final EIS, TVA stated its preference to permit existing floating houses if such structures meet new standards and allow floating houses and previously permitted nonnavigable houseboats to be moored on TVA reservoirs for a 20-year period. As noted above, this period was extended to 30 years by the TVA Board of Directors when the new policy was approved in May 2016.

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

Final Environmental Impact Statement Executive Summary (PDF 713 kb)

Contacts

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
fh@tva.gov