Wilmington, NC- Water management officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District have received final approval for a change to flood operations at John H. Kerr Dam and Reservoir.
Under previous flood operations, stepped-up releases from Kerr were determined based on how high lake levels were in Kerr Reservoir. However, a more responsive plan for managing releases from Kerr called Quasi-Run-of-River (QRR) will now be in place for handling future flood events.
“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.