New Water Control Plan for Kerr


On June 1, 2016, Colonel Kevin Landers, Commander of the Wilmington District of the US Army Corps of Engineers, signed into regulation a new Water Control Plan for John H. Kerr Dam and Reservoir. Under the new plan, the Corps will release up to the previous week’s inflows to the reservoir, up to the maximum capacity of the dam’s generators, to bring Kerr Lake back to the guide curve as quickly as possible.  The new regime is called “Quasi-Run- of-River” (QRR) because it simulates natural flows, restricted only by the capacity of the generators.

This new plan will dramatically reduce the frequency and duration of high water in Kerr Lake, making beaches, docks, ramps and campgrounds more useable for longer times and even reducing shoreline erosion. It will also significantly reduce the amount of time downstream timber, farm, and conservation lands are inundated by prolonged flows. It accomplishes this goal by releasing larger volumes of water more quickly during flood control. Because downstream flooding takes time to accumulate, QRR limits the duration and sometimes even the extent of downstream floods. Meanwhile, the Corps will continue to meet its power commitments. As the water passes from Kerr through Lake Gaston and Roanoke Rapids Lake, Dominion Generation regulates the levels of those lakes to comply with limits established in their 2004 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license.

The Nature Conservancy to the Army Corps first proposed this much-needed adjustment to the operating plan for John H. Kerr in 1993. The Corps made it clear that the adjustment could not be implemented without Congressional authorization of a long-term study of the plan’s environmental costs and benefits. The Roanoke River Basin Association and Dominion Generation joined a coalition of stakeholders to advocate for such a study, and after four years of work with Congressional staff from NC and VA, the study was authorized and funded in 2000. The NC Water Resources Division co-directed and co-funded the study. After authorization, RRBA served on several of the study task forces and tirelessly advocated for the QRR option.

There were many times when it looked like the study would never be completed, or that it might result in advocating the status quo. But scientific data and models made all the difference. RRBA is especially grateful to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the NC Wildlife Resources Agency, the NC Water Resources Division and the NC Nature Conservancy for their support of science-based evaluation and decision-making.

So this is a very big day for all the stakeholders who live, work, and recreate from the headwaters of John H. Kerr to the mouth of the mighty Roanoke on Albemarle Sound. It’s a big day for boaters, hunters, anglers, campers, farmers, timber managers, and conservation advocates. It’s a big day for basin counties, riverside towns, and businesses. It’s a win-win- win…!   It’s been a long time coming.



NEWS       for immediate use

CONTACT:  Frank Timberlake (919) 269-4300                           June 10, 2016



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.

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.”

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

RRBA mourns the loss of a great friend and leader

alesterHerman Andrew Lester II

The RRBA is in mourning of the sudden passing of Andrew Lester our devoted Executive Director KEELING, VA — Herman Andrew Lester II, 69, passed away on Monday, May 23, 2016, at Danville Regional Medical Center in Danville.

He was born December 2, 1946, in Danville to the late Elsie Jones Lester and the late Herman Andrew Lester.  Andrew graduated from Dan River High School in 1965, where he was a starting pitcher for the baseball team. A lifelong “Hokie”, Andrew then attended Virginia Tech, receiving an undergraduate degree in Political Science. He served in the Navy, then returned to Virginia Tech to earn a graduate degree in Urban and Regional Planning.

Shortly after his time at the university, Andrew began a career as the city planner for Virginia Beach, later leaving that position to work as a certified residential appraiser for the Virginia Federal Housing Administration. After many years in Virginia Beach, Andrew returned to his roots to continue his “Andrew Lester Appraisal Services” real estate business in the Danville-Pittsylvania County region.

Later in life, Andrew found his passion in working as the Executive Director for the Roanoke River Basin Association, where his trademark wit and candor moved many to support his cause. His efforts in the task of preventing the lifting of the ban on Uranium Mining and Milling in Southside Virginia were especially significant. His dedication to the preservation of the natural resources of the entire Basin was unyielding. He was unmatched in his ability to treat everyone with modesty and respect, regardless of background or social status. He will be sorely missed.

Gene Addesso Retires

 Key Announcement

gene   After several decades of leadership to the Roanoke River Basin, President Gene Addesso announced his retirement at the end of 2015.  The RRBA board of directors, not wanting to lose Gene’s skills and knowledge of the issues we have taken on, has conferred on Gene the lifetime title of President Emeritus of the association in recognition of his achievements and commitment to the cause of protecting our water and improving our environment in the Roanoke River Basin.  Gene will be spending a lot more time on the golf course and fishing on Kerr Lake with his grandsons.

Newly elected President, Mike Pucci of the RRBA announced the appointments of 2 new board of directors at the April 1 meeting in Danville, VA.    Tommy Roberson, former Mayor of Williamston for 22 years and founder of the Roanoke River Mayors Association, joins the board and brings years of relationships with key decision makers in Raleigh and the communities in the lower Basin.  Mr. Roberson was an integral supporter of the NC Coalition against Uranium mining and milling and he brings a wealth of experience to our board.   The second appointment was awarded and accepted by Alan Purser, the President of the Roanoke Rapids Chamber of Commerce, also a supporter of the NC Coalition against Uranium mining and milling, Alan brings representation to the board from the business community in the Roanoke Rapids corridor and relationships with elected officials in Raleigh.  We are blessed with the addition of these two outstanding leaders who join a board of directors that has extraordinary levels of technical and political expertise on environmental and other issues that threaten our Basin.  Please join us in congratulating Gene on his retirement and the membership of “Mayor Tommy” and Alan to our group.

Mike Pucci, President RRBA