Shoreline Construction FAQ

The Tennessee River watershed is special. The 26a permitting process was designed to help TVA keep it that way. Here are the most frequently asked questions about 26a permitting, along with answers to help you through the process.

Boat Docks

For properties with existing docks, visit the buyer/seller page. For newly proposed docks, you will need to have some information: address or property location of the proposed dock, project plan and drawing (visit the minor construction page), and land rights allowing a dock.

If you are trying to determine if a property is allowed to submit a Section 26a permit for a dock or other water use facilities such as ramps, stabilization, vegetation removal, etc., visit the application instructions page to see if your land has those “land rights” and if you are eligible to apply. TVA lands are zoned for different purposes and only certain ones have the “land rights” that allow someone to apply for a 26a permit. Not all "waterfront" property is eligible to have a dock. The interactive map on this page will assist you in determining if your property is eligible to apply for a dock. Your property must show in royal blue or yellow on the map in order to potentially have the “land rights” to apply for a permit. If your property does show in royal blue or yellow, then you would move on to filling out an application. Visit the checklist for help filling out your application. For properties with existing docks, visit the buyer/seller page to help you with filling out your permit.

Visit the application instructions page and download the application and example. Review the application instructions page and video, fill out the application, review the checklist, and then send in your application to the Regional Watershed Office address in your region.

Delays in the review of any permit application can result from complications such as incomplete applications, modifications to the project after the application was submitted, potential impacts to sensitive resources (archaeology, wetlands, mussels, endangered species, etc.), potential impacts to TVA’s programmatic interests (navigation, flood control, etc.) or unresolved violations and encroachments. There may also be delays associated with obtaining state permits that are required before TVA can issue a federal permit.

For the most part, all construction or alterations to the shoreline on TVA reservoirs require TVA approval, even minor changes to the dock. Be sure the plans in the permit match exactly what is constructed on site. TVA considers minor shoreline alterations to include, but not limited to: residential docks, piers, boathouse, landbased steps and walkways and any type of shoreline stabilization. Examples of major shoreline alterations include, but not limited to: marinas, community docks, bridges, or aerial crossings. Visit the 26a jurisdiction page for more information on if the proposed location and activity type require a permit.

Generally, in new developments, docks, piers, boathouses and other residential water-use facilities must be 1,000 square feet or less and use of TVA property would be limited to an access corridor; however, you may be eligible for a waiver to these requirement based on your location. Any activity on TVA property requires prior written approval from TVA through the Section 26a permit process, including but not limited to: proposed removal of vegetation, construction or reconstruction. A vegetation management plan should be included with your application. Visit the drawings page for an example vegetation management plan.

You still need a Section 26a permit. Facilities permitted by TVA prior to the implementation of TVA’s Shoreline Management Policy (November 1, 1999) and that are constructed in compliance with the previous permit are grandfathered. However, any time property ownership changes, the new owner is required to request a Section 26a permit for the existing approved facilities. This does not automatically happen upon sale of a property. This is called a Transfer of Ownership. Only docks that are in compliance with the previous permit qualify for a transfer. The dock must be built exactly as previously approved by TVA. If you are proposing to make any changes to a previously permitted dock, a new permit from TVA is needed prior to any modifications.

Permit Applications

Fill out the application to the best of your ability with the information that you have and refer to our application checklist for required information and tips. It is very important to complete all of the information on page 1 of the application and include plans, and photos, or your application may be returned as incomplete.

Section 26a permits are not automatically transferred upon the sale of the permit holder’s property. New property owners must contact TVA and submit an application for a permit for the existing (already constructed) structures along the shoreline when they acquire waterfront property. TVA’s regulations require that a new property owner notify TVA within 60 days of acquiring the property. To qualify for a transfer of ownership, all of the existing facilities must have been previously permitted by TVA and be built as previously permitted. Transfer of ownership application fee is $250. You must submit a complete application package including all the items on the checklist such as facility drawing and site photos. If the facility does not match the previous permit or was not previously permitted, this would be a new permit request and the fee is $500. If all of the constructed facilities have been previously approved by TVA and comply with TVA’s previous approval, these applications are assessed an application fee of $250. Please visit our buying and selling page for more information on transfers and the best way to obtain a previous permit.

The authorized agent is anyone you select to be the point of contact for your application process (for example, your spouse, real estate agent, dock builder, etc.). If you designate an authorized agent on your application, TVA or the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) may contact that individual and the individual may act on your behalf regarding all aspects of your application. TVA will communicate about a permit application only with the applicant or the authorized agent. You do not have to designate an authorized agent. If you do not want an authorized agent, just indicate N/A in that space on the application.

Yes, the plans you submit with your application should be final and include all your proposed construction activities including utilities, stabilization, jet ski floats, vegetation management, and how you plan to access your facility across TVA property. TVA has numerous drawings available to assist in compiling your plans. You may need to include additional drawings for proposed or existing landbased structures such as steps and pathways located on TVA property. Applications received without complete plans may be returned.

The applicant disclosure form is part of the application package. It is found on the third page of the Section 26a application. A complete and signed form for each applicant, such as spouses, is required for the application package to be complete. Applicants are required to disclose any business, political, or financial interest that may present an actual or potential conflict of interest with TVA.

DA stands for Department of the Army or the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The USACE also has jurisdiction over activities in waters of the United States such as TVA reservoirs. TVA will share your application with the appropriate USACE office. In most cases the USACE does not send separate approval. If you do not have the previous DA/USACE or TVA permit numbers, leave these blank on the Section 26a application. You may need a state water quality permit or Section 401 permit for your proposed activity. See below under Permit Process questions about the permitting process for additional information on Section 401 permits.

Permit Process

TVA will contact you about your application, let you know if additional information or fee is needed and will usually conduct a site visit as part of the review process. For minor construction activities we strive to issue permits within 100 days. In some instances, the size, location or scope of a project may require additional processing time and fees. If this applies to your project, TVA will contact you. Additionally, a project may require site specific work such as special biological studies, archaeological studies or advanced environmental reviews that are not covered by the application fee. If it is determined that detailed work is required, TVA will contact you.

Minor shoreline alterations: The permit application fee for minor shoreline alterations on TVA reservoirs (such as residential docks, piers and boathouses) is $500. We strive to issue permits within 100 days.

Off-reservoir: Applications for permits not located on a TVA reservoir are assessed an initial application fee of $250 (i.e., off-reservoir locations). To confirm if your request is located off-reservoir, please use the interactive map located on the application instructions.

Major shoreline alterations: The permit application fee for major shoreline alterations on TVA reservoirs (such as marinas, community docks, bridges or aerial crossings) is $1,000, and applicants may be charged for costs exceeding this initial fee. By their nature, these projects are more complicated and take longer to review. 

Delays in the review of any permit application can result from complications such as incomplete applications, modifications to the project after the application was submitted, potential impacts to sensitive resources (archaeology, wetlands, mussels, endangered species, etc.), potential impacts to TVA’s programmatic interests (navigation, flood control, etc.) or unresolved violations and encroachments. There may also be delays associated with obtaining state permits that are required before TVA can issue a federal permit.

TVA will send a dock tag in the mail for most permitted structures, such as docks, piers and boathouses to place on the facility. TVA will email you the permit separately.

Permits expire if construction is not initiated within 18 months of the date the permit was issued. Once construction has begun or is completed, the permit does not expire unless there is a condition in the permit that states that it will expire or you no longer own the property to which the permit was issued. TVA can revoke a permit if necessary; for example, when a permit condition is not followed.

The Section 401 permit pertains to a water quality permits issued by the State. If a 401 state permit is needed for your request, a copy of your application to the state water quality office; i.e. TDEC, ADEM, MDEQ, must accompany your Section 26a application. Many requests are covered by a general state water quality certification or general permit. Please review information on your state's water quality websites for more information on each state's requirements. Contact information can be found on sidebar on the application instructions page.

A Vegetation Management Plan must be submitted and approved by TVA prior to any vegetation disturbance on TVA land. Written approval from TVA is always needed to trim or remove any vegetation on TVA property. Please see the drawings page for an example plan and drawings, approved plants, and TVA resources. If you are disturbing vegetation, you must get a permit. A Vegetation Management Plan is not a separate permit, it is part of the 26a application and permit.