NORTH CAROLINA SIDE OF KERR LAKE HIT HARDEST WITH HIGH WATER CAMPSITE CLOSURES FOR MEMORIAL WEEKEND – Spawning Striped Bass in Roanoke River Get Nod/Blame for Slow Release
The 306â€™ water level at Kerr Lake is anticipated to lower to only about 305-feet above sea level for this weekend, the Memorial Day holiday. In a testy, if not often heated meeting yesterday, the US Army Corps of Engineers took repeated questions and some direct hits from downstream farmers, the Roanoke River Basin Association, Kerr Lake Park Watch, other groups and citizens for varied concerns about the current high water.
A rain system entering the watershed last Thursday dumped as much as six inches of rain and was pretty much on target to be right over the areas of Kerr and its tributaries. It caused a swift increase in the lake level from about 301.5â€™ to almost 307â€™ in the past few days. That fact had people from various groups including Kerr Lake Park Watch asking the Corps in yesterdayâ€™s meeting, â€œWhy is there a reduced flow of 15,000 CFS instead of 20,000 or 35,000 CFS (cubic feet per second of water flow)? The answer given is that it is a critical time for Striped Bass making their way from the ocean up the Roanoke River to spawn. If the water flow is too great, the fish donâ€™t reproduce well.
While that answer may appease some, itâ€™s not the best of news for campers at Kerr Lake. â€œWe understand that the lake is a complex entity for flood control, power generation, farming considerations, recreation, saving Virgin Cyprus trees and spawning fish,â€ commented Kerr Lake Park Watch Public Affairs Lead, Frank Timberlake, â€œBut itâ€™s tough, especially on the North Carolina side to tell 25% of the campers with reservations that they donâ€™t have a spot for the first big camping holiday of the year, and itâ€™s a site they had already reserved. Being four feet over the Corpsâ€™ guide curve because of striped bass is hard to explain to those folks; Iâ€™d certainly hate to try to explain it. Kerr Lake is its own Geo-Tourism area and we have to continue to make sure that fact ranks and ranks high with lake decision-makers.
Bryce Fleming, Superintendent of the seven NC Kerr Lake State Recreation areas told KLPW today, â€œWe have 150 campsites park-wide that will be unusable this weekend based on the current prediction. The call center has a list of all impacted sites and is contacting all impacted campers via telephone and/or email. The most recent lake level prediction for the beginning of Memorial Day weekend is about 305â€™ and continuing to recede slowly afterwards. That said, if campers want to check to make sure their sites are not flooded, they can call the park office at (252) 438-7791.â€ Fleming added, â€œI know the timing of this flood is frustrating for Kerr Lake campers. It is frustrating for us too because, up until 5/16, we were looking at having one of the best Memorial Day weekends in years. I am updating the ALERT on our website today to make it current, www.ncparks.gov.â€
Campgrounds under the operation of the US Army Corps of Engineers on the Virginia side of Kerr Lake have fared much better because typically, they are on higher ground. â€œWe have only about 15 campsites off our grid,â€ said Michael Womack, the OPS MGR for the Corps at Kerr. â€œWe have contacted our campers that are impacted by the flooding of the sites listed above. We have been able to accommodate all of our camping reservations for the weekend. If people have additional questions concerning Corps operated facilities they can call the Visitor Assistance Center at (434) 738-6143. We are hoping that we will be at 305 by Friday/Saturday but we will have to continue monitor inflows and adjust as needed.â€ As the lake level lowers public areas affected return to public access and use.
Yesterdayâ€™s Corps meeting of the water management group provided some information that some swim areas, beaches and boat ramps on the Virginia side are closed. The two Virginia State Parks on Kerr Lake are apparently not affected. For the NC side, Fleming also confirmed that boat ramps, flooded bridges and that information will be updated on the parkâ€™s website.
Meanwhile, 25% of those campers who have plans for Kerr Lake on the North Carolina side will need to rethink what their family and friends will be for the upcoming holiday weekend.
FIND OUT WHEN WE DOâ€¦www.facebook.com/kerrlakeparkwatch or www.kerrlakeparkwatch.org.