Smith Mountain

About Smith Mountain

History

The idea for damming the Roanoke River at the natural gap of Smith Mountain in Southwestern Virginia had been promoted for a number of years before the Smith Mountain Pump Storage Hydroelectric Project became reality. Originally proposed seriously in the 1920s, it was another 40 years before Appalachian Power completed the two dams which make up the unique project. Construction on the Smith Mountain and Leesville dams began in 1960 and was completed in 1963. Hundreds of workers cleared several hundred cubic feet of mountainside and poured about 200,000 cubic feet of concrete to build the project.

The Smith Mountain Dam is a double curvature, concrete arch type spanning 816 feet and rising 235 feet above the floor of the gap; Leesville Dam is a concrete gravity dam and is 980 feet long and 90 feet tall.

Smith Mountain Lake

The project’s two lakes reached their normal “full” water level in 1966. The areas covered by the reservoirs were primarily rural farmland. During dam construction Appalachian Power also built several bridges to accommodate traffic around the lakes.

Combined, Smith Mountain and Leesville Lakes are almost 60 miles in length, contain about 25,000 surface acres and include 600 miles of shoreline.

Appalachian Power, a subsidiary of American Electric Power (AEP), is licensed to operate the Smith Mountain Project by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The initial license term was for fifty years. In 1998, AEP began the process of relicensing and a new license with a 30-year term was issued in 2009 and became effective in 2010.

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The River That Runs Uphill - 1967

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