W. Kerr Scott Reservoir’s water level peaked at a new record high of 1,062.61 feet above sea level at 2 p.m. Monday as a result of unusually heavy rain this past weekend in the reservoir watershed.
As much as 15 inches of rain fell in portions of the reservoir watershed Friday through Sunday.
The reservoir’s normal level is 1,030 feet above sea level and it was above 1,062 feet until 10:15 a.m. Tuesday. It was just shy of 1,060 at mid-morning Wednesday and a little over 1,056.67 late Thursday afternoon. The old record high level of 1,061.2 feet above sea level was set in November 1977.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which built and manages W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir, began increasing the volume of water released from the dam by opening the dam gates increasingly wider on Monday.
Water was being released from the dam at a rate of 2,500 to 3,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) Monday and the release rate has gradually increased since then. Maximum release is 5,300 cfs and minimum is 125 cfs during a drought.
Lisa Parker, a spokesman for the Corps’ Wilmington District headquarters in Wilmington, said, “Our current plan is to hold our releases near 5,100 cfs through the early part of next week, when we will be near elevation 1,040…. Even near our maximum release, we anticipate the pool remaining elevated for the better part of two weeks.”
Parker said the rate of release would likely be reduced at the end of next week to ensure the lake level doesn’t drop too far over the following weekend, “but we hope to be back closer to normal pool sometime during the week of the 24th.”
She said the releases and predicted water levels are contingent on the impact of any future rain.
Parker said W. Kerr Scott Dam performed as designed by holding back incoming floodwaters to prevent flooding downstream.
She said Corps officials sent dam experts to W. Kerr Scott Dam to monitor the current situation there.
Corps personnel “are continuously inspecting the dam and there are no safety concerns,” she added. The gate on the road across the top of the dam was closed this week to maintain worker safety during observations and instrumentation checks, said Parker.
If the reservoir level reached 1,075 feet above sea level (top of the flood control pool), water would automatically start flowing through a 400-foot-long earthen channel (spillway) just north of the dam and then down a steep slope to Fish Dam Creek, which empties into the Yadkin River just below the dam.
Therefore, W. Kerr Scott Reservoir has 45 vertical feet of dedicated flood storage (difference between 1,030 and 1,075 feet) and the spillway functions as a release valve.
The dam, an earth and rock structure completed in 1963, is 1,750 feet long, 148 feet tall and reaches an elevation of 1,107 feet above sea level. At a normal level of 1,030 feet above sea level, the reservoir covers 1,475 acres, is 9.7 miles long and has 55 miles of shoreline.
Recreational facilities closed
Parker said the reservoir’s high water level is impacting docks and other structures and most recreational facilities on Corps-managed property around it are closed until the level recedes and repairs and cleanup are conducted. “It is unfortunate that the higher elevations are impacting recreation, but the Corps’ number one priority is flood control,” she said.
All hiking and biking trails on Corps-managed property are closed. Recreational areas closed include Boomer, Berry Mountain, Smithey’s Creek, damsite, Keowee and Dark Mountain parks, as well as the Boomer and Marley’s Ford wildlife management areas, Blood Creek fishing pier, West Yadkin River trailhead, Warrior Creek Campground, and portions of Bandit’s Roost and Fort Hamby campgrounds and day use activities at Fort Hamby.
“We would also like to remind the public that parking is limited to designated public parking areas for your safety and the safety of our rangers and staff,” said Parker.
For more details and current status of openings and closings, visit the W. Kerr Scott Facebook page or call the visitor assistance center at 336-921-3390.