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IT’S SPRING & THAT MEANS KERR LAKE RISES – FOR UPDATES VISIT OUR FACEBOOK PAGE.

Here we were almost showing up in the drought column in Piedmont North Carolina and Southside Virginia, then came the rains.  It’s Spring and especially during April, the showers that bring the flowers usually show up.

Kerr Lake is now over 306.5 feet above MSL (Mean Sea Level – 300′ is normal full pool) and rising, expecting to crest between 309 and 310 feet.  A number of U S Army Corps of Engineers and North Carolina State Recreation Areas are either closed or partially closed due to the high waters.  We have had no information out of DCR or the Virginia State Parks.

We are currently posting information about parks and public use areas on Kerr Lake as the information is provided to us.  As the list of boat ramps and campsites inundated by water is constantly changing we will continue to post that information on our Facebook page which you can find at www.facebook.com/kerrlakeparkwatch.

If you have camping reservations from now through the weekend, Kerr Lake Park Watch suggests that you contact the reservation system for the public park entity as individual state and federal rangers may not have the latest information.

Kerr Lake Park Watch has asked the U S Army Corps of Engineers if the QRR Plan (Quasi-Run-of-River) adopted last year will hasten the departure of the flood waters.

In the final analysis, Kerr Lake is a reservoir, not a lake.  And this, well, it’s April and the showers.  You know that story.

Photo of Nutbush area 4/26/17 by Kelly N. Blake

Posted in: KLPW - Camping Safety, KLPW - N C State Recreation Areas, KLPW - US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, KLPW - WATER RELATED

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CORPS OF ENGINEERS APPROVES & ENACTS QRR PLAN FOR KERR LAKE

Groups that support best use practices for Kerr Lake and the Roanoke River Basin are smiling this week as the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced the approval of the QRR Plan that will allow more responsive actions for handling future huge weather and subsequent flood events.  Stakeholders, representing groups like the RRBA (Roanoke River Basin Association), Kerr Lake Park Watch, Vance County Tourism Development Authority and others, like the idea of Kerr Lake being kept at a more consistent level by the QRR or Quasi-Run-of-River Plan. And downstream, supporters want the water to come through at a faster pace and move on out quicker.

Kerr Lake Dam - Lower side USACE PIC

U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Photo

With recent heavy weather/rain systems threatening this past Memorial Day’s recreational activities like camping in the parks around Kerr Lake, several groups pushed to have special action taken by the commanding colonel of the Corps, but such action is rare and it did not happen. From the viewpoint of Kerr Lake Park Watch and tourism supporters, when park users can’t get to or on a site due to high water, particularly around a holiday, that is difficult in a number of ways.

During the Memorial Day holiday such an occurrence happened when some campers were moved and others were sent home. Although most of the time there are an abundance of camping sites that number about 1,200 all the way around the lake, there is a critical shortage of electric and water sites which nearly all campers want nowadays.   Kerr Lake Park Watch’s Frank Timberlake was one of those who had to be moved during the Memorial Day holiday, “We all were eagerly awaiting some intervention for larger water releases by Wilmington (Corps) or both the approval and adoption of the QRR and neither happened then. So I am personally watching the water creep to within 20 feet or so of my camper after I had already moved once.”

Switching gears from camper to parks promoter, Timberlake said of the Corps’ adoption of QRR, “This is monumental and one of the most positive flood operational changes that I’ve ever witnessed for the John H. Kerr Dam and Reservoir. We realize how many different and differently postured stakeholders are involved in the day-to-day operations of Kerr; there are flood managers, power companies, agricultural and forestry entities, fish and wildlife representatives and groups that specifically care about the parks around the lake and groups that are focused on the river(s). The Corps has listened. The Corps has responded. And many, many have won. Our joy is quieted a bit by the recent passing of Andrew Lester, the Executive Director of the RRBA who pushed diligently for this and other good things for the Roanoke River basin. I wish he could have seen it enacted.”

In a statement, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers outlined the specifics of QRR or moving the water through the system at a more realistic amount and pace, “Previously during really wet times, like we experienced this past winter, long periods of 20,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) flood releases from Kerr and Roanoke Rapids Dams were possible,” said Wilmington District Water Management Chief, Tony Young. “Prolonged 20,000 CFS flood releases were causing harm to the lower Roanoke floodplain forest ecosystem due to long periods of standing water, as well as impacting timber operations and recreational access to the floodplain. Only when Kerr lake levels were extremely high could flood releases be further increased to 25,000 and eventually 35,000 CFS, but this did not occur very often.”

Young added that under the QRR plan, flood releases will more closely mimic the natural inflows coming into Kerr on a weekly basis and may be increased above 20,000 CFS on a more frequent basis-up to a maximum of 35,000 CFS for larger storm events. While these higher releases will inundate a larger portion of the floodplain, these higher releases will be made for a much shorter period of time, allowing the river downstream of Roanoke Rapids to return to normal much sooner. In addition, lake levels in Kerr may not get as high and will return to normal levels sooner, allowing Kerr to better handle the next flood event and reducing recreation impacts.

Timberlake added that wildlife downstream was featured in discussions but Kerr Lake wildlife factors in as well, “We saw firsthand Memorial Day weekend that when we lost campsites to water at 308 (feet above mean sea level – 300’ is normal full pool) we also saw a huge amount of displaced wildlife: deer in unexpected places, more raccoon, fox and snake sightings. But we’re all going to take a big step forward now with QRR as the water will be more manageable, so shall the shores and the parks on them, thus making Kerr Lake Park Watch a group of happy campers.”

 

Posted in: KLPW - Environmental, KLPW - MAIN NEWS, KLPW - US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, KLPW - WATER RELATED

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OFFICIAL “FOR” COMMENT ON QRR PLAN FROM KERR LAKE PARK WATCH SENT TO CORPS

Kerr Lake Park Watch has sent its comments for the official record to the US Army Corps of Engineers.  “This is a precise and concise document in favor of the QRR (Quasi-Run-of-River) Plan, partly from us and partly from the RRBA,” said Frank Timberlake, Kerr Lake Park Watch spokesman.  “We have a number of people who have copied the short version off of our Facebook page and the public is certainly free to use this example, but it must be sent to the Corps by tomorrow night at 11:59.”

The Corps email address is:  eric.k.gasch@usace.army.mil

Mr. Eric Gasch, QRR Comments
US Army Corps of Engineers

Although we have not been in touch with the entire membership of the 400+ persons of Kerr Lake Park Watch, the majority of those reached concur that we as a group are in support of the Corps’ adoption of the QRR (Quasi-Run-of-River) Plan.  As the Public Affairs Lead, I am requesting that our opinion and comments go into the official comments record.

COMMENT:

The Roanoke River’s flow has been significantly affected by three dams near the Virginia/North Carolina border. Current dam operations hold large amounts of water in place for unnaturally long periods of time during wet years – causing long periods of flooding, damaging timber, wildlife, and fish. In turn, people who live along the river and depend upon it are also hurt. Since 2000, many conservation stakeholders, resource agencies, local property owners, and other conservation partners have worked with the Corps of Engineers (COE) to improve dam operations at Kerr Reservoir, reducing consequences to people and nature. Today the COE is proposing changing its operations.

Our first reasons are of course, based on recreational and tourism motives.  We feel that QRR will provide:

Improved Conditions in Public Parks & Public Areas – Controlling the flow of the Roanoke River through Kerr Lake using the QRR Plan would help prevent as much water as now that gets onto public parks lands.  If water levels did elevate to where it covered public areas, the use of the QRR plan would get that water off faster.

Improved Conditions for Public and Private Roads Near Flood Prone Areas – With the QRR Plan in effect, the COE could move flood waters off of public roadways and private areas much faster which has to be a huge factor towards public safety not to mention erosion and the costs of road, bridge and public area repair.

Improved Timber Stands Scientific research shows that continuing current operations, with long periods of flooding, will lead to loss of valuable hardwood trees such as oak and hickory. Over time, the forest will convert to trees with less value on the timber market such as sweet gum and red maple. Changing dam operations will reduce flood times and allow oaks and other hardwoods to flourish, which is good news for property owners along the river.

More Time on the River and in Forests of the FloodplainCurrent operations, with their high water levels, block access to the floodplain for long periods of time. Changing the dam operations will give anglers, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts more time to enjoy the area. That’s good news for recreational users of the river; it is also good for the many businesses that cater to recreational users.

More Food for WildlifeAs oak trees disappear so do their acorns, which are a major source of food for deer, squirrels and other wildlife.  Changing the dam operations will keep the acorns dropping and ensure continued abundance of wildlife, which is good news for hunters and wildlife enthusiasts.

Improved Water Quality Holding large amounts of water behind dams or in the downstream floodplain for long periods of time leads to lower levels of oxygen in the water. The fish and other animals are hurt, particularly in hot summer months. Changing the dam operations will improve oxygen in the water – reducing fish kills and ensuring that fish thrive in the Roanoke, which is good news for anglers.

Reducing ErosionLong periods of flooding lead to banks eroding and collapsing. Changing dam operations will reduce shoreline erosion on the river and in the Reservoir, which is good news for property owners.

Increasing Flood StorageCurrent operations result in sustained high reservoir levels, reducing capacity for storage of additional storm events.

Again, please see that my supportive email for the passage of the QRR plan is included in the record and counted as a very loud, “FOR!”

Thank you and best wishes,

Frank Timberlake
Lead, Public Affairs
KERR LAKE PARK WATCH
Office (919) 269-4300
Cell (919) 805-0055

Posted in: KLPW - Environmental, KLPW - MAIN NEWS, KLPW - US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, KLPW - WATER RELATED

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