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Biologists concerned about flooding along Roanoke River

Posted July 23, 2013

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— Biologists say they are concerned about how prolonged flooding along the Roanoke River could potentially affect the local ecosystem.

Jean Richter, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, said Tuesday that the water level in woods and land along the river in Martin County are about 10 feet above where they should normally be this time of year.

The reason: Heavy rains in recent weeks have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releasing water from Kerr Lake that then flows downstream into the Roanoke River and floods the surrounding areas.

"You're starting to lose a good functioning ecosystem," Richter said. "To be flooded this time of year is not normal."

She says that, although it can handle flooding, the area is not used to standing water for long periods of time.

Concerns range from trees and plants dying to a large fish kill.

Biologists concerned about flooding along Roanoke River Biologists concerned about flooding along Roanoke River

Worried about the potential impacts, Richter and John Ellis, also with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, say they would like to see water from Kerr Lake released quickly rather than at its current steady pace.

Ellis says it would still mean short-term flooding, which the environment is capable of withstanding.

"A flood comes along, the lake goes up, the river goes up," he said. "The lake comes down. The river comes down in a relatively short period, as it would naturally.”

As to whether quicker release would happen, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which controls the water level on Kerr Lake, says there is an ongoing study to evaluate potential changes in water releases.

"Water releases impact hydropower, agriculture and recreation among other things," said Ann Johnson, chief of public affairs for the Wilmington District of the US. Army Corps of Engineers. "We need to know the impacts to all those who stand to be affected by a change and the impacts before we make any changes."

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  • Capt Mercury Jul 24, 2013

    Quicker releases are not going to happen as long as the ACE gets money from generating power. They will only release as much water as the generators can use.