Archive for December, 2012


The public’s patience is running pretty thin about Kerr Lake low water levels, even though the weather is mostly to blame.  The USACE has finally released a statement on the drought condidtions.  Kerr Lake Park Watch presents it to you in its entirety.


For Immediate Release                                                                                  Dec. 4, 2012

Release #12-03-12

Corps of Engineers declares drought conditions at Kerr Lake

WILMINGTON, N.C. – A deepening drought in central and western North Carolina and Virginia has led U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District to take action to declare drought conditions at John H. Kerr Dam and Reservoir this week.

“We don’t see any significant rain in the forecast for December and Kerr Lake levels continue to drop,” said Tony Young, water management chief for the Corps’ Wilmington District.

“North Carolina and Virginia drought monitoring groups, along with District water management stakeholders, have been watching dry conditions across the Roanoke River  basin this summer and fall, and all agree that drought conditions have reached significant levels,” said Young. 

   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, but this has not been the case this year. 

     “Since the end of June, inflows into Kerr have only averaged about 35 percent of normal,” Young said.  “Since dropping below our target summer pool elevation at the end of June, we have been conserving water by only generating the minimum energy amount that we are contractually obligated to provide to scores of communities and electric cooperatives across Virginia and North Carolina.” 
      Since October, rainfall and inflows have been even less.  November has been especially dry, with only a half-inch of rain in the basin and at the dam–as a result inflows were only about 20 percent of normal and were comparable to 2001 when inflows were the lowest on record for November. 

     As a further indication of worsening drought conditions, the National Drought Monitor downgraded much of N.C. and Va., including all of the Roanoke Basin above Kerr, to “D1-Moderate Drought” based on continued much-below normal rainfall and stream flows.

     “Continued lake level decline is likely as long as dry conditions continue in the Roanoke Basin; however, winter is the normal recharge period for reservoirs and wells, so we will hopefully see some improvement in lake levels during the upcoming months, Young said.

  The winter forecast calls for equal chances of below-normal, near-normal, and above-normal precipitation.  If conditions improve to at least 50 percent of normal inflows in the upcoming months, lake levels would begin to improve. 

     “Until conditions improve, we will continue to generate “minimum” energy amounts,” Young said.  “If conditions worsen, a reduction in generation below those minimum levels is a possibility.”

In response to the drought conditions, the district’s water management group is stepping up stakeholder coordination. “We are taking advantage of our weekly water management stakeholder conference calls that the district began in 2002 in response to a serious drought,” Young said.  “The information we share helps us to make the best possible decisions for all who use water resources in our river basins.”

“Caution should be exercised by people who use John H. Kerr for recreation,” says Michael Womack, operations manager at John H. Kerr Reservoir.  “When water levels get low, additional hazards like submerged debris, stumps and rocks are hidden just below the surface. Boaters should slow down, be alert and wear their life jackets at all times.”

Kerr Reservoir currently has several boat ramps closed due to low water levels.  For the latest information on lake elevations and ramp closures, please call the John H. Kerr Powerhouse 24-hour recording line at 434-738-6633, ext. 275.  You may also contact any park ranger at the Visitor Assistance Center, 434-738-6143, Monday – Friday.

For more information about water levels and water management, visit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wilmington District web site at . For more information about drought conditions, visit the N.C. Drought Management Advisory Council web site at or the Virginia Drought Management website at

Posted in: KLPW - Boating and Related Improvements, KLPW - MAIN NEWS, KLPW - US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, KLPW - WATER RELATED, KLPW - Water Safety

Leave a Comment (1) →


One of the early supporters of Kerr Lake Park Watch, Larry Matthews, is an avid camper, boater, skier and a part-time resident of Kerr Lake.  While his comments raise some interesting perspectives, his photos tell a very sad story.  Here’s a look at both.

“Because of a health issue, I have not been to the lake since the first week of October. Since I check the lake levels daily, I knew how low the lake was. I was finally able to go to the lake today and check out our dock and the water level. WOW, I had forgotten just how dramatic it is when you are actually at the lake.

Needless to say, our dock is pretty much high and dry, as is all of our neighbors. So, I came home and did a little research. Unless I read the Corp of Engineer’s charts wrong, it looks like the last time Kerr got down to 292′ was October of 2002. One would have thought that we would have gotten this low during our droughts of the last few years.

After reading Michael Womack’s comments, I also did a little research on the water level of Smith Mt Lake. Looks like they are down over 3′. WOW 3′, “bless their hearts”. I only wish we were down 3′. (To be fair, we would need to see what Kerr’s normal lake level is for Oct/Nov.) Check out the article,

The good news is that I saw a lot of hydrilla high and dry and dying out, as much as hydrilla will die out temporarily. Another effect on the lake that might be interesting to research is how water consumption for municipalities has increased over the last 15-20 years.

Blogs are about sharing thoughts and information. So, I’ve shared some of my thoughts. Just as the hydrilla issue, the water fluctuation level is a tough one to solve and, frankly, will not be solved. A positive effect of the fluctuating water level is that it may have slowed development of Kerr. And as a result, we can still find calm still quiet water on Kerr Lake unlike all of the other lakes in our area. I love being a “pirate of the kerr-ibean”.”

KLPW and many lake and park users understand that no one can do anything about drought until it rains.  Mr. Matthews raises a good point though as to why Kerr Lake percentage of loss is so much higher than other lakes in the system, especially, Smith Mountain Lake.

From those with the responsibility of watching over Kerr Lake, users and organizations like KLPW need concise and simple explanations and those users and stakeholders need to know that everyone in the process is doing the best job possible to keep all of the aspects and usages of Kerr Lake.  That responsibility rests squarely on the US Army Corps of Engineers.

We will continue to hope for more basin rainfall and we will continue our watch at Kerr Lake Park Watch.

Posted in: Uncategorized

Leave a Comment (4) →