Most people are surprised when they first visit Smith Lake and are told the water levels can fluctuate 14 feet. Those of us that have been here a while are used to it but it is a “thing” that has to be taken into account when finding your dream home or lot.
Let’s get a few definitions: “Summer Pool” is considered 510 mean sea level (msl). Google mean sea level if you do not know what that means. “Winter Pool” is 496 msl. “Yearround” water means that you still have water under your entire dock when the water is at Winter Pool, even if only an inch. If ANY of your dock is touching the ground at Winter Pool then you have “Seasonal” water.
Rarely does Smith go above or below these two levels but there are exceptions (i.e., drought, flood). Alabama Power starts slowly dropping the water level in July and it is as low as it will go by December. The rains historically start raising the level in December and Smith Lake reaches summer pool around April 1.
So why does this matter? Alabama Power regulations rules for docks limit the length, size and location (in cases of being in slough). A dock can extent 92′ into the lake. This can be a combination of dock and ramp. Typical is a 60′ ramp and 32′ long dock. This length allows a 4′ walkway and 28′ slip. You can turn the dock sideways to get a little more length on your ramp or if you are in a slough that does not allow the full 92′.
This time of year it is very easy to determine if you will have Yearround water. You can pull a tape from where the pier (what your ramp connects to and is the structure on the land) can be placed and determine if or how you can ensure Yearround water.
One other way to ensure Yearround water is to install a “chase the water system”. Basically, a ramp is installed allowing the dock ramp to roll out to keep the dock in the water. This system requires some method of letting out and pulling in the ramp/dock as well as allowing the electrical lines to move in and out with the dock.
How does this affect water values? Smith is different from Martin in that many areas of Martin are seasonal and this does not affect values nearly as much as it does at Smith. Seasonal lots can drop the property/house values easily by 25% and in many cases more than that.
Other considerations around Seasonal lots. Another consideration is how your dock may sit down. I own a house that touches the ground at around 498 msl. The land has a gentle slope where it sits down and so it is much less a concern…this is what I call sitting down gracefully. If your lot is a rock shoreline then it may sit down on jagged rocks or worse.
Slough Lots: Lots in a slough less that 300′ wide at the point of your dock has another consideration. Alabama Power allows dock to take up a maximum of 1/3 of the width of the slough. This can make a lot that would be Yearround on the main channel a seasonal lot since the dock cannot go as far out.
Bottom Line: My progression of value of lots in order is: 1) deep water lot (10’+ deep when at winter pool), 2) Yearround water (1″+ at winter pool), 3) seasonal with a chase the water system, 4) seasonal but allows you to get your boat in and out of the slip, 5) seasonal sitting down gracefully, 6) all others.
Feel free to contact me with any questions and please call me to help you find the right lot or house on Smith Lake.