In the Maldives, there are overwater bungalows and underwater hotel rooms in the Indian Ocean. In San Francisco, there are bobbing cottages near the Golden Gate Bridge.
In Kentucky and the Southeast, there are “floating cabins” – cabin-houseboat hybrids that remain stationary atop the water with the comforts of electricity and running water.
They became so popular in recent years that the Tennessee Valley Authority decided to halt any new construction of floating cabins beyond December 2016 within the Tennessee River system.
TVA even made a policy change in 2016 to clear all waterways of the floating homes within 30 years – with many advocates suggesting people should never have been allowed to build on public land (or public water) and potentially harm natural resources – but the Obama administration overturned the decision.
Now, TVA is trying to add a few common-sense safety measures to the existing “subdivisions floating on the water,” according to TVA spokesman Jim Hopson.
“We’re responsible for ensuring the safety of all individuals on the waterways as well as the environmental integrity and safety of the waterways,” Hopson said. “We want everyone who enjoys our reservoirs to have a safe and enjoyable experience.”
TVA’s proposed regulations target environmental safety concerns related to substandard electrical work and pollution runoff, according to Hopson.
“There have been incidents of raw sewage getting into the water,” he said.
TVA’s proposal also includes a measure to introduce permits for existing floating cabins. If floating cabin owners do not cooperate with standards or obtain permits, TVA would work to have the structures removed from the water, Hopson said.
At this time, there are an estimated 1,800 structures – sometimes multistoried, 2,000-plus-square-foot homes – in the Tennessee River system’s 49 reservoirs. The highest number is near Norris Dam in Tennessee, and there are some located within the Kentucky Reservoir near TVA’s biggest dam, the Kentucky Dam.
TVA will accept public comments through March 9.
– For more information and to comment, visit tva.com/floatingcabins.