Floating Houses

In April 2014, TVA initiated an environmental review of floating houses and nonnavigable houseboats mooring on TVA reservoirs out of concern for safety, sanitation, water quality and fair use of public lands and reservoirs.

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.

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, over 1,800 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

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 the potential management actions TVA may take in response to the proliferation of these structures. The EIS will assist TVA with determining whether new management policies, minimum standards and rule updates are needed.

In May and June 2014, TVA conducted 5 public meetings during a 90-day public scoping period to get input from the public and stakeholders on concerns, relevant issues and potential management actions. In February 2015, TVA issued the Floating Houses Policy Review EIS Scoping Report which summarizes the comments brought forward during the scoping period.

TVA has completed a Draft EIS to assess the impacts associated with TVA’s management and oversight of these structures. The Draft EIS is now available for review. TVA invites the public and other stakeholders to review the Draft EIS and provide comments during a 60-day review period. TVA will accept comments on the Draft EIS until August 18, 2015.

PDF files require Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Floating Houses Policy Review Draft Environmental Impact Statement (PDF 8.9 mb)

Executive Summary (PDF 1mb)

Public Meetings

In July and August 2015, TVA held four public meetings across the TVA region to discuss and provide information on the Draft EIS. Meetings were held in Bryson City, N,C.; Lafollette, Tenn.; Parsons, Tenn.; and Johnson City, Tenn. At each meeting, the following presentation was given to attendees:

Floating Houses Presentation

In addition, TVA hosted a webinar session on August 12. The webinar session was recorded and is available for viewing by clicking the following link (when prompted, please click on "join the webcast" and enter the registration information):


Next Steps

After reviewing and considering the public’s input on the Draft EIS, TVA plans to complete the Final EIS in late 2015. Any decisions to change management policy and rules would likely happen in 2016.

If a management alternative is selected requiring updated regulations, TVA would initiate a rulemaking process to revise its Section 26a regulations to establish the new policy as well as new standards and minimum requirements to address environmental and safety concerns (e.g., electrical, sewage, mooring practices). The rulemaking process would be initiated at the same time the Final EIS is released.


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