Kerr Lake Section 216 Study – New Water Control Plan
After some 14 years of effort by the RRBA and other major stakeholders in the Basin, we are happy to report the 216 Study at Kerr Lake has finally been terminated. Since the only activity left in the study was the potential improvement to Water Flow Operations, the USACE determined that a change of that kind, requiring no capital expenditures, could be implemented by just gaining approval of a change to the Kerr Lake Water Control Plan.
We are proud to inform you that the change going forward for approval was one of about 6 options put up for analysis and was submitted by the RRBA. After considerable modeling and analysis the option became known as “Quasi Run of the River” or QRR.
The QRR Alternative would result in a change to operations during very wet periods such that Kerr Reservoir would operate more frequently at its designed flood release, which is also its turbine capacity of 35,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). This change will significantly reduce the duration of high water events in Kerr Lake and the duration of downstream flooding, make more flood storage capacity available to control large floods, and maintain more stable reservoir levels. Additionally the benefits for downstream landowners are as follows:
According to recent research, continuing with the existing management will so severely impact the ability of valuable hardwood species (e.g., oaks, hickories) to reproduce that they will gradually disappear from most of the floodplain, being replaced by low-value species like red maple and sweet gum. Reducing flood durations on timberlands in the QRR Alternative will greatly reduce this severe economic impact and help maintain these valuable timber types.
Sustained growing season floods under existing operations inhibit reproduction of ground-nesting and ground-foraging birds, e.g., quail and wild turkey, and other species, such as box turtles, deer and rabbit, which are driven off flooded lands by the high water. QRR will significantly reduce the loss of diversity and abundance of wildlife species that the current Kerr Lake operating policy is causing in the Lower Roanoke.
Reducing the duration of floods by about 50% with the QRR Alternative will reduce the frequency and severity of bank collapse, preventing further degradation of fish and aquatic habitat and reducing the rate of shoreline land loss.
By substantially reducing high water periods that block access to the floodplain, QRR will significantly increase angler, hunter and outdoor enthusiast use of the floodplain and the associated economic benefits.
Please also be aware of the fact that QRR has no impact on the management of Lake Gaston water levels which are controlled by the FERC license with Dominion Power.
Status of QRR Implementation
The USACE (Corps of Engineers, Wilmington District completed public review on the Environmental Assessment for the Water Control Plan revision on January 29th, after public meetings and a written comment period Thanks to all of you who attended the public meeting in Williamston on the 11th of January. We had good representation there. The Corps has also received quite a few comments via email and written letter, most of which fell into a number of overall broad groupings for response. Their team is proceeding with finalization of the Water Control Plan documentation and the target date for submittal of the Water Control Plan revision and the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) to the South Atlantic Division office is now April 25th. This accounts for the time required to organize and prepare responses to public input. The Corps reported they are getting close to the finish line – and stakeholder groups assistance, enthusiasm and support has been appreciated as they work to move forward with the recommendation for QRR implementation.
By: Gene Addesso, President Emeritus, RRBA
March 24, 2016