Water levels at Lake Gaston

Lake Gaston is in the middle of a complex system of lakes and waterways spanning two states.

At a top level, the primary purpose of Kerr Lake is flood control (other purposes include power generation and recreation). The primary purpose of Lake Gaston (LKG) and Roanoke Rapids (RR) Lake is power generation (other purposes include recreation and flood control). The US Army Corps of Engineers owns and operates Kerr dam and is responsible for flood control in the Roanoke River basin. Dominion Energy owns and operates LKG and RR dams.

The Corps decides how much water flows out of Kerr Dam, which then flows through LKG, RR and then downstream.

Dominion then schedules releases based on power generation needs. Per their license and laws, Dominion is required to keep Lake Gaston in the Normal range except during the Spring fish spawning time and during Flood Operations (see the details in the box on page 2), when they are allowed to exceed Normal level.

We go into Flood Operations when the Corps decides it has to release a lot of water from Kerr (20,000 cubic feet per second or more).

What we saw this year

Through much of this year the conditions were very dry, even officially in drought. During that time, LKG levels were usually in the normal range.

This fall, Mother Nature ramped up the rainfall, sending two hurricanes and some other significant rain events our way (and also way up river in the Roanoke River watershed). For example, in both September and October, we had seven times the average amount of water for this time of year flowing into Kerr Lake!

As a result, we have spent a lot of time officially in Flood Operations. Between 9/22 and 10/31, we were in Normal Operations just 8 days and in Flood Operations the remaining 32 days. During all that time in Flood Operations, Dominion was allowed to let LKG levels rise and yet there were less than a half dozen days that were above the normal range!

What it all means

This means that not only was Dominion managing the lake level to at or below the “Good Neighbor" policy target of 201.5', but most of the time it was down in the Normal range! It means we avoided sustained high water levels that threaten the shoreline and docks.

It also means that we passed along warnings that lake levels could rise (they could have) and then it did not come to pass. I think we can agree it is better to be safe than sorry in such cases and be thankful the levels stayed lower.

Until next time!

~ Don Carson, LGA Vice Presidentstrong>