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Watauga Lake accessibility and Sink Mountain boat ramp discussed by local officials

By Marlana Ward

Lake accessibility was the topic of the evening when representatives from the National Forest Service, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), and members of the Johnson County Commission met together February 9, 2017. The popular Sink Mountain boat ramp, the need for repairs, and possible site enhancement were the main focuses of the meeting.
Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter opened the meeting by expressing his desire to see the ramp moved further up the access road to allow room for a fishing pier to be added to the lake access point. He explained that though he knew water flow in that portion of the lake could be an issue, he hoped that a solution could be found to make the lake more accessible to more people. He also mentioned that giving emergency personnel a better launching point would be very beneficial to the county.
US Forest Service Ranger, Keith Kelley, addressed those gathered to say that while he was relatively new to the Johnson County area, he was interested in learning more about any issues with the Forest Service properties in the county and the history thereof. Kelley also brought attention to the fact that the water in the Watauga Reservoir belonged to the Tennessee Valley Authority and any work done on the water would have to be approved by that agency as well.
Representing the local sportsmen of the county, Commissioner Jimmy Lowe spoke of the continuing deterioration of the Sink Mountain Ramp and the need for maintenance. He explained how the gravel between the concrete portions of the ramp has been steadily washed away over the years and the need to have the ramp re-bedded was something that needed to be addressed soon. Ranger Kelley acknowledged the concern for the needed repair and assured that it would be looked into soon. He said that a repair of that nature to an already existing fixture should not need approval from multiple agencies and would be something that could be taken care of easily.
Commissioner Lowe, as well as Commissioner Rick Snyder, both expressed a desire to see a floating dock system installed at the Sink Mountain location. The increased ability to single-handedly launch a boat as well as a less-damaging method of launching could be achieved by having a dock system that lowered and raised with the water level and give boaters a way to secure their boat in the water during launch and loading without having to drag their boats across the graveled shore.
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