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Floating Houses

In April 2014 TVA initiated an environmental review of floating houses and nonnavigable houseboats mooring on TVA reservoirs.

image of floating house

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, approximately 1,900 floating houses and nonnavigable structures are on the reservoirs. Less than half of those have TVA nonnavigable houseboat permits.

Laws and Regulations

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.


  • Structures Floating House
  • Structures Floating House
  • Structures Nonnavigable Houseboat
  • Electrical Electrical
  • Electrical Electrical
  • Electrical Electrical
  • Discharge Discharge
  • Residential Type of Use
  • Anchoring Anchoring
  • Anchoring Anchoring
  • Anchoring Anchoring

More About the Review

On April 30, 2014, TVA published in the Federal Register a Notice of Intent to conduct an environmental review of the growth in the Tennessee River Watershed of floating houses and nonnavigable houseboats designed and used primarily for human habitation and the potential management actions TVA may take in response to the proliferation of these structures. The review will help TVA determine if new management policies, minimum standards, and rule updates are needed.

As part of the study, TVA intends to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS) to assess the impacts associated with TVA’s management and oversight of these structures, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). A draft of the environmental analysis will be available for public review in early 2015. TVA will complete the environmental analysis in the summer of 2015. Any changes to management policy and rules will likely be published in late 2015 and take effect in 2016.

Next Steps

The publication of the NOI initiated a 90-day public scoping period that ended on July 29, 2014. During the scoping period, TVA conducted five public meetings in locations across the Tennessee River Watershed to provide information, listen to concerns, discuss options, and identify related issues. The public was also invited to submit comments by mail, email and online. During this period, TVA heard from several hundred members of the public and numerous intergovernmental agencies about a broad range of interests, issues, and concerns. In the coming months, TVA will be reviewing the input, collecting data and information on potential environmental issues, and developing a range of management alternatives to be analyzed during the environmental review.

As part of this review, TVA will consider establishing minimum standards for floating houses. Any future minimum standards will be developed as part of the review process with public input. Potential standards that address water quality and waste management, electrical safety, structural stability, size, flotation types, mooring, and anchoring practices may be considered. Other issues to potentially consider include, but are not limited to, permitting and tracking, harbor limits, and proper disposal of derelict or abandoned floating houses.


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

For information on the NEPA review process contact:

Matthew Higdon
National Environmental Policy Act Project Manager
Tennessee Valley Authority
400 West Summit Hill Dr., WT 11D
Knoxville, TN 37902
(865) 632-8051

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