News Stories

J.H. Kerr Lake: Corps reaches summer "pool" a little early this year

Published May 20, 2015

Corps reaches summer pool a little early

this year to support striped bass spawning

WILMINGTON, N.C. – The Wilmington District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, brought spring lake levels at John H. Kerr Dam and Reservoir (also known to many in Virginia as Buggs Island Lake) down to the normal summer pool a little earlier this year than usual to support the striped bass spawning season.

   Typically, the Corps tries to maintain the lake level at guide curve elevation while supporting each of the project’s purposes: flood control, water supply, water quality control, recreation and fish and wildlife conservation.  The guide curve changes seasonally, generally dropping to a winter pool elevation of 295.5 feet, then rising to a summer pool elevation of 299.5 feet.  In early spring, the guide curve rises to an elevation of 302 feet.

   At this time of year, the water stored at Kerr between 299.5 and 302 feet is specifically for striped bass spawning releases (from April through mid-June).

   The Corps works with fishery agencies to determine the preferred magnitude and timing of spawning releases based upon weather and river conditions as well as timing of the spawning activity.

   “For the past couple of years, fishery agencies have requested we try to release most of that spawning storage by mid-May, a few weeks earlier than most residents near the lake recall us doing in previous years,” Wilmington District Water Manager Ashley Hatchell said.  “Lower lake levels will reduce the risk of having to make high, undesirable flood releases during the last few critical weeks of the spawning period.”

   The Wilmington District does not intend to draw lake levels below the normal summer pool elevation of 299.5 with these spawning releases. 

   Spawning releases were reduced this week to keep lake levels from dropping further, and are essentially matching what the District anticipates inflows to be throughout the week.

   Reports are the peak of the spawn has passed and they are now in a transport phase.  The Corps was told the current releases seem to be providing favorable conditions for this vulnerable part of the spawning process.