Residents and visitors to John H. Kerr Lake may have noticed higher lake levels this fall. The Wilmington District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has delayed winter water level drawdown at John H. Kerr Dam and Reservoir to accommodate major maintenance work taking place on the dam’s 22 floodgates.
Normally, USACE water managers begin bringing the lake level down several feet during October and November toward its lower winter level. However, this year that drawdown is being delayed about three months so work on Kerr Dam's floodgates can be completed. This work has been underway since May, with maintenance already completed on 18 of the 22 floodgates.
“Maintaining this higher lake level is necessary to allow the USACE to move a floating bulkhead in front of each floodgate as work progresses. Water between the bulkhead and the floodgate can then be pumped out, allowing work to be done on the normally submerged portion of the floodgate,” said John H. Kerr Dam and Reservoir Manager Michael Womack. “If the lake level is allowed to drop much below our normal summertime levels, it becomes impossible to float the bulkhead to the next gate to continue work.”
Starting in late December or early January, releases will be increased to begin gradually lowering lake levels over a several week period, said Tony Young, Wilmington District Water Management Chief. Planned releases and water level drawdowns would also be affected by flood operations following any heavy rainfall events during that timeframe.
“We will continue to keep our stakeholders informed about our plans to lower the lake level at John H. Kerr,” Young said. “We expect the work on the floodgates will be completed by mid-January, but we can hopefully start lowering the lake level in late December.”