KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved funding for a new skimmer boat after the Boone Lake Association requested over $30,000 at their meeting Tuesday night. The board voted 5-2 to pass the measure.
Vice Mayor Colette George and Alderman Betsy Cooper voted against the funding.
The water level in Boone Lake had been down below normal levels over the last seven years while crews repaired the Boone Dam. As water levels begin to rise again, more debris is showing up in the lake, which poses a threat to boaters and swimmers.
That debris comes in the form of branches, logs, and trash that were left in spots where the water had receded or in the many tributaries that flow into Boone Lake.
“It has washed all the stuff that’s been sitting in the tributaries and off in the weeds and in the brush for the last six years,” Boone Lake Association President Val Kosmider said Tuesday night.
Kosmider says the boat essentially works like a large scoop for removing that debris.
“The boat moves along through that material, it scoops it into a basket,” Kosmider said. “It’ll hold a couple tons of material.
Not only can that debris have environmental effects, but it can also cause injury or property damage. The debris forms into clusters that Kosmider calls “slicks” that can be large in size.
“These are several hundred or thousand square feet and you only see the surface,” Kosmider said. “What you don’t see if the depth, that they may go down two or three feet.”
Kosmider said it is very easy to get a boat stuck in the slicks.
The Boone Lake Association had already secured $62,500 in funding for the skimmer from Sullivan County. It requested $31,250 from Kingsport and Bristol. WJHL reached out to Bristol Mayor Mahlon Luttrell about the city’s stance on the funding, but he did not respond.
Some BMA members, including Vice Mayor George, were concerned about the funding because of where the boat would be operating and calls from constituents.
“The lake is not in Kingsport,” George said. “The non-profit that we’re funding is not going to be using any of the money we’re giving in Kingsport.”
Kosmider made his case to the board by saying the boat would be operating at Fort Henry Lake 14 times per year. That change was added to the proposal after the board rejected a similar pitch for funds back in May.
That means operations for the association are now expanded beyond Boone Lake, but Kosmider said that is a good thing.
“This is an opportunity for us to expand our presence a little bit,” Kosmider said. “It’s good for Fort Patrick Henry Lake. It’s good for the people that use the lake for recreational enjoyment.”
Kosmider said he is not sure how much work needs to be done at Fort Patrick Henry Lake.