March 2024 Special Edition

March 2024 Special Edition

The mission of the Smith Mountain Lake Association (SMLA) is to protect the water of Smith Mountain Lake (SML) and to promote safe recreation. With over 500 miles of shoreline, that touches three counties, more than ten-thousand lake front properties, and visitors from around the globe, thus making the health and safety of SML critical.This special edition of AHOY! is my report to you on several new initiatives that will help keep SML clean and safe.

Your support, membership, donations, and volunteer service are very much appreciated. SMLA could not get it done without you. Thank you!

As always, your feedback is appreciated and welcome. Please reach out to me at

Respecfully,Bill Butterfield, President

Commonwealth of Virginia Funding 
SML is a big lake that needs support from the Commonwealth to keep it clean and safe. That is why last November we engaged with Hunton, Andrews, and Kurth, a government relations firm in Richmond, to ask Governor Youngkin and the General Assembly for funding. Specifically, SMLA requested a budget amendment that will fund a two-year Virginia Tech study of the entire SML watershed to understand what caused the significant cyanobacteria outbreak last summer.The 2024 General Assembly session began on January 10 and it will adjourn on March 9. I am pleased to report that our request for funding has been included in both the House and Senate budgets. Now the conference committee is working to resolve differences between the two budgets. Once finalized, the Budget Bill is sent to the Governor. I am cautiously optimistic that when the FY2025 budget is signed by Governor Youngkin, it will include funding for Virginia Tech to study the SML watershed.

Princeton Hydro Watershed Assessment 
While the news about state funding is encouraging, the money and associated work will not begin until next year. In the interim, SMLA has contracted with a private, independent lake management firm to conduct a watershed assessment of the Blackwater arm of SML.Princeton Hydro is a water resource engineering and research consulting firm that works on lakes in states up and down the east coast, including Virginia. The scientists and certified lake managers from Princeton Hydro will collect information to establish where excess nutrients may be entering the lake. Field technicians will also collect surface water and sediment (mud) samples at select locations in the Blackwater most affected by the 2023 Swimming Advisory. Results are expected by mid-summer 2024 and will be helpful for the Virginia Tech work.

Dock Watch Program 
SMLA recently  joined the nationwide NOAA Phytoplankton Monitoring Network as a Citizen Science team to assist in the tracking of cyanobacteria throughout the year. Last month, over 25 SMLA volunteers were trained by a NOAA scientist in microscopic identification of target cyanobacteria species, the algae-like organisms responsible for the Swimming Advisory last year in the Blackwater.  Our volunteers will collect water samples at 20 docks around the lake every two weeks, and inspect them under microscopes in the newly established SMLA lab. The program’s goal is to monitor for increases in abundance of cyanobacteria at our docks, which is where many of us swim and recreate. Long term, the program will be able to monitor seasonal and other dynamic trends throughout the year.

Smith Mountain Lake Water Quality Alliance 
SMLA, in partnership with the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, Tri-County Lakes Administration Commission, and Ferrum College have formed the Smith Mountain Lake Water Quality Alliance (SMLWQA) to protect the water of Smith Mountain Lake. The alliance also includes residents, professionals, and county and state agencies. The current SMLA HAB Working Group is excited to evolve into a community-supported collaboration. 
The goal of the Alliance is to educate and advise residents and visitors on:
  • The history of Harmful Algal Blooms, or HABs, on Smith Mountain Lake
  • The steps being taken to better understand and characterize our watershed,
  • The prospects for future HABs
  • The best practices for keeping Smith Mountain Lake clean and safe

TLAC Wake Education Task Force 
The Wake Education Task Force is a cross-section of citizens from Smith Mountain and Leesville lakes appointed by the TLAC Board of Directors to research and develop an educational program to inform boaters of the importance of safe boating behaviors and etiquette associated with wakes to minimize unintended hazardous consequences. SMLA’s Water Safety Council helps fund educational materials. 

All donations are used to increase water quality monitoring in the lake and its tributaries and share safe boating messages with residents and visitors.

Click Here to Donate and Make a SPLASH

Thank you for being a Steward of the Lake!