Corps soliciting input to plan at Kerr Lake

Jan. 20, 2014 @ 08:09 PM

Open house events at the front end of a yearlong process to update the 1995 John H. Kerr Reservoir Shoreline Management Plan got mixed reviews from two Kerr Lake advocates.

Frank Timberlake and John Soles agreed stakeholders at the lake should mark their calendars for the evening of Feb. 11 at the Vance-Granville Community College Civic Center.

The focus of the meetings hosted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is to inform the public and hear input. Individuals are invited to come and go during the three hours from 4-7 p.m. to interact with engineers on a one-on-one basis.

Soles said how the shoreline is managed has a direct impact on thousands, from property owners to campers and revelers at the numerous parks along the man-made reservoir’s lake-like margins.

According to Timberlake, who leads the Kerr Lake Park Watch group, the impact is real but a critical lack of integrity exists because direct interaction of a town hall meeting or public hearing is avoided.

“I got their letter last week, and I expect I will go,” Soles said. “I would hope everyone else would too. We should be there out of an interest in how this impacts all of us.”

“We got the same letter,” Timberlake said. “We’re studying it. What the public doesn’t realize is if the Corps gives an opportunity for public input we should go, or else they will just do what they do unchecked.

“I am concerned, though. Will the public be guided through their dog and pony show, or will there be real input from the public? It is a dog and pony show. The Corps doesn’t like a person standing up in the midst of a crowd so everyone knows what is being discussed.”

Timberlake said the lake community is dispersed abroad at the time being, from Richmond to Raleigh and further during the winter. This weakens the interaction.

The Corps is in the midst of a “216” report and a “QRR” report, which Timberlake explained have a lot to do with water-flow patterns and lake levels.

“This is a government code for their report,” Timberlake said. “Both of these can have a huge impact on the parks, impacting hydrilla weed issues, swim areas, and, yes, the shoreline.”

Soles said he hoped a hydrilla mitigation campaign started a few years ago will become a part of the official shoreline management plan.

“That was not mentioned directly in the letter, but I certainly hope it would be place in there,” Soles said.

Timberlake said an impact on shoreline management would be allowing owners and other lake organizations to extend boat launch and dock structures out into deeper waters.

“There probably is not a boat ramp or dock that doesn’t need to be extended because of the hydrilla,” Timberlake said. “If the hydrilla is not eradicated, the ramps and docks should extend to deeper than 20 foot,” which he explained is the growth height of the hydrilla weed from tubers in the soil.

A moratorium on the issuance of new shoreline use permits and add-ons to old permits went into effect this past Friday. The moratorium is specifically in effect until the updated shoreline management plan is adopted, which is expected to take place in the spring of 2015.

Soles said he does not see the moratorium as having much impact on lake development. It is common during the review process.

Timberlake said he believes the public input meetings may be very similar to those held over hydrilla issues last year. He said he was infuriated by the “staged meetings” with engineers, charts and graphs, and very little real input from stakeholders.

Timberlake said he hoped pressure would be applied to have public hearings, or at least have the Corps publish a full accounting of the planned public input, extending a Feb. 28 deadline if necessary so responses to that report can be added.

Open house events are scheduled in Virginia on Feb. 4 at the South Hill Public Library and Feb. 6 at the Clarksville Community Center. Corps staff will also be available for comment at the John H. Kerr Visitor Assistance Center, 1930 Mays Chapel Road, Boydton, Va.

Timberlake warned that if no one attends, there is no chance to influence the Corps.

“If I can, I will go,” Timberlake said.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.