Archive for November, 2012


Concern has reached an almost unprecedented level about the low level of water in Kerr Lake this season. KLPW has received a number of one-line comments and questions about the continued depletion of water in the reservoir.

Of the plea-like questions came a written request for information about the lake’s low level from Kerr Lake enthusiast and user, David Hanson, who wrote to Kerr Lake Park Watch, saying, “Please advise on how much lower you are going to release the water.  I have not been able to get an answer; it is as if no one really knows.  This has been the worst year that I have spent on Kerr Lake in my 19 years of being on the lake.  At least tell us why and not the standard answer we are in a drought, if that is the case then start pulling water from Gaston also and not just six inches. I am assuming that our taxes will go down because we are not able to use the facilities. I am thoroughly disgusted because I have the greatest respect for the Corp with numerous friends working for the Corp.

There are many people asking the same question, “Why is Kerr Lake so very low?”  At Kerr Lake Park Watch we assume nothing so we went directly to the US Army Corps of Engineers to give an explanation of why the lake is so far below the guide curve this year.

Michael Womack, the  Corp’s Operations Project Manager at Kerr Lake says he sympathizes with Mr. Hanson and others concerned, “as we are definitely well below normal for this time of year.
Womack offered some detailed information about the reservoir operations and conditions that have contributed to the current lake level situation:

  • Kerr Lake is a multi-purpose reservoir. As such, we have target lake levels that vary seasonally to better accommodate different purposes–flood storage year-round, but especially in the winter; spawning releases in the spring; and recreation in the summer. Hydropower is a primary purpose of the project year-round and provides affordable power to communities and electric cooperatives across Virginia and North Carolina.

  • When rainfall is adequate, we make every effort to maintain lake levels at or near these     seasonal target lake levels (also called our guide curve); however, actual rainfall (surplus or lack of) determines how well those target lake levels can be maintained. Where the lake level is (relative to this guide curve) determines how we operate the project. Generally speaking, if the lake level is above guide curve, we make controlled flood releases to bring the lake back down near guide curve to restore our flood storage. If we are below guide curve, as we have been all summer and fall due to below-normal inflows into the lake, we conserve water by reducing our energy generation to the minimum amount that we are contractually obligated to generate. This minimum generation also meets the downstream requirements for water quality. Our minimum energy commitments are highest in the summer and winter months when power customer demands are the greatest. These minimum energy amounts decreased significantly (by 33%) in October, which allowed us to conserve more water and reduce lake level drawdown. However, these minimum energy amounts increase again starting in December due to higher winter power demands.

  • While there was seemingly decent rainfall at Kerr Dam this summer, keeping the lake full depends on widespread rainfall across the entire Roanoke River basin upstream of Kerr to sustain inflows–but this has not been the case this year. Since April, inflows into Kerr have only been averaging about 40% of normal (based on long-term monthly median inflows), and since the beginning of July, only averaging just over 35% of normal. Since early October, rainfall has been very limited and inflows have declined even further–averaging less than a third of normal for October and ranking 8th lowest October out of 83 years of inflow data. So far for November, inflows are running less than 25% of normal and ranking 2nd lowest November). As a result of these protracted below-normal inflows, lake levels have been steadily dropping despite only generating our minimum energy amounts since the beginning of July. If you look at lakes upstream of Kerr, such as Smith Mountain and Philpott, they are experiencing low lake levels as well. We cannot predict how low lake levels will get but the goal is to raise levels back to guide curve with the help of needed rainfall in the upper watershed. Until then, we will continue to minimize the impact of the low inflows on the lake level through our operations.

  • While there hasn’t been an official drought designation in the NC and Virginia portions of the Roanoke Basin this summer/fall, the National Drought Monitor has persistently designated this area as “D0”, which indicates “abnormally dry” conditions. Virginia also currently has the Roanoke Basin designated as a Drought Watch area. However, if dry conditions continue, more significant drought designations are likely in the Roanoke Basin.

  • Seasonal outlooks indicate “equal chances” of below-normal, near-normal, and above-normal precipitation over the next few months. With near-normal (or even slightly below-normal) precipitation across the Roanoke Basin, we would begin to see some improvement in inflows and lake levels. For comparison, we’ve probably only seen about 25-50% of normal precipitation over the past 30-60 days over the basin.

At a recent Corps meeting on the subject of Hydrilla, a Corps official, when asked about lower water levels said that an initiative several years ago that changed the guide curve to accommodate virgin cyprus trees in eastern North Carolina had not contributed to lower levels in the lake.

It appears that it will take rain and a substantial amount of rain upstream in the upper Roanoke River Basin to help the level of Kerr Lake see normal again.


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On October 26, 2012 the US Army Corp of Engineers released a letter concerning an Environmental Assessment of Kerr Lake with regard to Hydrilla infestation, with only a 30-day public comment period.  Kerr Lake Park Watch has obtained confirmation that written and oral comments public comments will be taken.

KERR LAKE PARK WATCH (KLPW) a support and improvements group for the park facilities at Kerr Lake has verified that the public will be allowed to make oral comments at two upcoming meetings staged by the US Army Corps of Engineers.  The Corps is preparing a “Kerr Reservoir Aquatic Vegetation Management Program (AVMP). In order to implement that program, an Environmental Assessment (EA) will be developed for the evaluation of the environmental impacts on John H. Kerr Dam and Reservoir Project (Kerr Reservoir) and contiguous water bodies, associated with the AVMP.”  The study has to do with the exploding population of the aquatic nuisance weed, Hydrilla, shown below in the photo of a Kerr Lake cove.  The photo was taken less than 20 days ago.


The letter went on to say that written comments will be received until November 26, 2012 and that two public information and comment sessions have been scheduled for Tuesday, November 13 — 5:30 – 7:30 PM at the Vance Granville Community College Civic Center, 200 Community College Road in Henderson, NC.  The second meeting is scheduled for Thursday, November 15, 2012 — 5:00 – 7:00 PM at the John H Kerr Reservoir Visitor Assistance Center, 1930 Mays Chapel Road in Boydton, VA.

The letter added, “
The public are invited to come at any time during these open sessions to learn more about the proposed Kerr AVMP. Comments received during the scoping process may also result in

coordination with individuals or agencies on an as-needed basis to discuss certain issues.”


“After distributing this letter we started getting emails and calls as to whether the public can speak on record about the increasing problem with hydrilla in Kerr Lake,” said KLPW spokesman Frank Timberlake.  “Inquiries reached the point that we went back to the Corps of Engineers and specifically asked if these meetings will allow citizens to speak their piece about Hydrilla concerns.”

The Corps’ Kerr Lake Manager Michael Womack told KLPW, “Yes, the scoping letter on the website gives all means available for providing comment, to include the two public meetings that will be held next week. Forms will be provided at these public information and comment sessions to receive written comments that will be incorporated/addressed in the Environmental Assessment.”

KLPW has urged its membership to make comment for the record concerning Hydrilla in Kerr Lake. According to Timberlake, “As far as anyone is concerned, Kerr Lake belongs to the US Army Corps of Engineers.  All parks and recreation facilities not owned by the Corps are leased from the Corps.  As the Corps is the owner of the lake, my question is how can the Corps allow individuals or states to treat the water in a lake where the Corps owns the water and the land it is on?  We also want to know why there is such a rush to obtain public input.  We will be watching what happens closely.  Just look at this close-up taken less than three weeks ago of your Kerr Lake.”

Kerr Lake Park Watch has the Environmental Assessment letter in its entirety on or interested persons may request a copy from


Names and contacts of public officials with Kerr Lake management responsibilities can be furnished by contacting KLPW at


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The US Army Corps of Engineers has announced that an Environmental Assessment will soon begin on the impact of Hydrilla on Kerr Lake. If you are concerned about Hydrilla in Kerr Lake this may be your best opportunity to let the USACE know!

It is essential that persons experiencing boating, docking, launching and/or swimming difficulty in the water, which is completely under the domain of the US Army Corps of Engineers, make their concerns and/or problamatic circumstances known to the Corps in this very limited window of time.

Interested persons will have until November 26, 2012 to make written comment to the Corps or 30 days from the original notification that the Corps has now decided that it needs to study controlling Hydrilla; given that the agency now feels that Hydrilla elimination is out of the question.

The following letter does not say whether public comment will be taken at two Kerr Lake area meetings in the next few weeks.  Those meetings are scheduled for November 13, 2012 — 5:30 – 7:30 PM at Vance Granville Community College Civic Center, 200 Community College Rd, Henderson, NC 27537; and on November 15, 2012 — 5:00 – 7:00 PM – John H Kerr Reservoir Visitor Assistance Center, 1930 Mays Chapel Road, Boydton, VA 23917

KLPW wants you to be aware of the critical importance of this process. Here is the notification letter in its unedited and complete form:










October 26, 2012

Visitor Assistance Center

Dear Sir or Madam:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Wilmington District, is preparing a Kerr

Reservoir Aquatic Vegetation Management Program (AVMP). In order to implement that

program, an Environmental Assessment (EA) will be developed for the evaluation of the

environmental impacts on John H. Kerr Dam and Reservoir Project (Kerr Reservoir) and

contiguous water bodies, associated with the AVMP. We are requesting comments from

agencies, interest groups, and the public to identify significant resources and issues of concern

with regard to the proposed action. Comments received during the scoping period will be

considered during preparation of the EA.

The EA is being prepared in accordance with the requirements of the National

Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended, and will address the project’s

relationship to all applicable Federal and State laws and Executive Orders. Significant resources

known to occur in the study area include fisheries; terrestrial; human (including socioeconomic,

recreational and aesthetic); water, wetlands; and cultural. Potential impacts on these resources,

as well as, threatened and endangered species, air quality, shore processes, and any potential

hazardous and toxic waste (HTW) sites in the project area will be fully addressed in the EA.

Should there be other issues which you believe should be discussed in the EA, please take this

opportunity to bring them to our attention.

The presence of aquatic vegetation is an important component to the ecosystem in a

manmade impoundment such as Kerr Reservoir. As the reservoir matures vegetation spreads

throughout the shallows providing habitat for fish, waterfowl and wading birds, benefiting water

quality, and stabilizing shorelines and bottom sediments. Over the past few years dense

vegetative mats dominated by hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) have become established. Hydrilla

is an invasive species on the US Department of Agriculture Federal Noxious Weed List.

Hydrilla is interfering with public use at Kerr Reservoir by restricting access around boat ramps,

blocking use of docks, interfering with swimming and other water sports, blocking access to

coves, and interfering with bank fishing. These dense mats are also degrading habitat for and

displacing native aquatic vegetation.

In the fall of 2011, North Carolina State University (NCSU) conducted an aquatic

vegetation survey of 650 miles of shoreline. Hydrilla was the most prevalent invasive species

identified, infesting approximately 698 acres primarily in the Little Nutbush Creek and Nutbush

Creek arms of Kerr Reservoir. Hydrilla occurred most often in shallow water high use areas

including boat ramps, marinas, and in areas with concentrations of private floating docks. Areas

of undeveloped shoreline were found to contain almost no hydrilla.

The intent of the Kerr Reservoir AVMP is to maintain a healthy and sustainable ecosystem dominated by native aquatic vegetation. Elimination of hydrilla in Kerr Reservoir considered a realistic outcome given the wide geographic extent of the current infestation,

due to the high variability in effectiveness and limitations of the available control methods.

Therefore, management and control alternatives for hydrilla will be a key component of AVMP. Alternatives for control of invasive species to be considered for implementation include chemical control by herbicides, biological control by triploid (sterile) grass Ctenopharyngodon idella – triploid), and removal with hand tools. Mechanical harvesting currently being considered since this method can further spread invasive plants due to

fragmentation. Establishment and promotion of native aquatic vegetation will also be

considered to reestablish native vegetation in areas where invasive plants are removed unvegetated areas.

As part of the scoping process for the EA, two public information and comment been scheduled.

November 13, 2012 — 5:30 – 7:30 PM – Vance Granville Community College Civic Center

200 Community College Rd, Henderson, NC 27537

November 15, 2012 — 5:00 – 7:00 PM – John H Kerr Reservoir Visitor Assistance Center

1930 Mays Chapel Road, Boydton, VA 23917

The public are invited to come at any time during these open sessions to learn more proposed Kerr AVMP. Comments received during the scoping process may also result coordination with individuals or agencies on an as-needed basis to discuss certain issues.

In order to effectively address any concerns that are raised, we need to have your no later than 30 days from the date of this letter. Please send comments to:

Kerr Reservoir AVMP

US Army Corps of Engineers OR e-mail to:

1930 Mays Chapel Road

Boydton, Virginia 23917

Additional information on the proposed Kerr Reservoir AVMP can be found at Should you have any questions, contact Mr. Robert Dennis at 434-738-6101 extension 160.


Michael T. Womack

Operations Project Manager


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