Lake Environment Committee

Maintaining the environmental well being of Lake Gaston

Over 75 LGA volunteers participated this past fall to survey the entire 350 miles of Lake Gaston shoreline. This was a tremendous effort and “hats off” to all those who participated.

Approximately 6,000 sample points were taken.  Jessica Baumann, Extension Associate for Lake Gaston with NC State University’s Aquatic Plant Management Program is now analyzing this along with biosonics sonar data to generate a report which will become available in March.  Water willow continues to be the greatest component of emergent vegetation. A small population of Hydrilla is still located throughout the lake, but sites in very shallow water, small and patchy. Lyngbya continues to be a concern with some areas showing expansion.  

These results along with hydrilla tuber density data will be analyzed by the Technical Advisory Group or TAG.  TAG will be making recommendations for integrated management such as Grass Carp stocking, revegetation with natives, and Aquatic Herbicide treatments to the Lake Gaston Weed Control Council (LGWCC) and Stakeholders Group.  Members of the LGA Lake Environment Committee are active participants in this management process.

Thanks again to all who volunteer to make this process successful.   Your work is critical to keeping our lake environment healthy!

On December 20, 2021 Dominion Power submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission changes to its Shoreline Management Plan appendices. These changes are the product of a required 5 year review which was delayed one year due to pandemic restrictions. Dominion received input from the general public on September 15th and from a working group, including state, federal, county agencies, contractors, real estate developers, the Lake Gaston Stripers Club as well as the Lake Gaston Association on October 3rd.

Summary of Changes

(1) Construction and Use Procedures. (Appendix C to the Plan) The proposed changes add a

statement prohibiting the use of submersible pumps, increase restrictions in Sensitive areas to

exclude any new clearing of land or building of docks, clarify that new bulkheads are not being

approved and clarify definitions of grandfathered landscaping.


(2) Aquatic Weed Control. (Appendix E to the plan) There are two proposed changes: the first

clarifies who may apply weed control chemicals in the lakes, removes the requirement to notify

Dominion prior to aquatic weed control activities and adds a requirement for registered

applicators to submit an annual report providing information regarding location of treatments,

area treated, chemicals applied, and species treated. The second change removes the requirement

to obtain permission from Dominion to clear native aquatic plants from a 10’ wide boat lane

providing access to the lake but makes clear that removing Water Willow will not be approved.


Special Management Area Maps

In Dominion’s 2005 Plan submittal, there were 23 maps that delineate areas within the project

boundary that warrant special protection. Those maps have not been changed and have not been

included in this submittal. The maps can be found on Dominion’s web site at: https://www.dominionenergy.com/lakes-and-recreation/lake-gaston-and-roanoke-rapids-lake-nc/construction-use-and-procedures


Once these revisions are posted on Dominion Energy’s web site the LGA will notify our membership.

On September 15th Dominion accepted public comments on its Shoreline Management Plan (SMP). Based on input from our membership over the last several years, the Lake Gaston Association (LGA) made two comments; 1) regarding Appendix E, Aquatic Weed Control revision 5, dated July 10, 2015, and 2) regarding Section 5, Shoreline Management Classifications.

1st Comment:  Appendix E, Section 5.2.2 the population of Water willow, Justicia americana, has expanded significantly along Lake Gaston's shoreline. The most recent lake wide Vegetation Survey indicates that Water willow is found on 57% of all survey sites.  While we recognize its value in shoreline stabilization, its expanse in some cases has encroached on swimming and water access areas.  Currently the SMP does not allow for removal of Water willow under any circumstances.  Other native aquatic vegetation is allowed to be removed.  Plants outside the boat lane require additional permitting and may only be removed in conjunction with mitigation. We request (in section 5.2.2) that Water willow be added to Table 1, List of native aquatic plants that can be removed, and that the statement "NOTE: Permits will not be issued for the removal of water willow." be removed from the SMP.

Under section 5.3, property owners may then (under permitting) remove Water willow in conjunction with mitigation. All elements of the existing mitigation process remain, but now will include Water willow.

2nd Comment.  Section Special Management Areas.  Dominion and NCWRC biologists undertook great effort to identify in the field Ecologically Sensitive Areas in 1996 and 1997. Lake Gaston shoreline identified as Ecologically Sensitive (14% or 62.7 miles) and Undevelopable (21% or 102.6 miles) are considered sensitive. Since these areas were identified, development has occurred along adjacent areas (beyond Dominion shoreline property) and clearing has been allowed by permit holders on Dominion’s property.  An update or revision to the Sensitive Areas map (dated February 1, 2000) and listing of Ecologically Sensitive Areas (Appendix D) should be completed. Areas should be identified as either Sensitive or Undevelopable/Sensitive.

The SMP allows for different levels of shoreline development in Sensitive Areas. Our concern is that as development has continued, areas which have been identified as Ecologically Sensitive may no longer retain their resource values.  A significant “loss” of resource values along the project boundary may indicate that the SMP does not adequately provide environmental protection for these areas. A Sensitive Area update would assist in this determination and guide construction and use procedures in the future. Once Shoreline Management Classifications are updated, Dominion should no longer permit Construction and Use on Sensitive Areas identified as undevelopable. Going forward these sensitive areas should be considered to be protected.

Volunteers from the Lake Gaston Association once again got “hands on” to enhance habitat on Lake Gaston, a 20,300 acre reservoir on the Roanoke River located on the Virginia-North Carolina border.  Since 2013, volunteers have been working with NC State University Department of Crop Science, NC Wildlife Resource Commission and the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources to enhance native aquatic vegetation on Lake Gaston.

The Lake Gaston Weed Control Council has been working for over thirty years using drawdowns, herbicides, and triploid grass carp to control invasive vegetation (primarily hydrilla) at Lake Gaston. As recent as 2006, hydrilla infestations were found on 3,000 acres.   Control measures are now proving successful with recent surveys showing hydrilla to be found on approximately 100 acres. 

Biologists see the need for native vegetation to fill the void left from hydrilla control. Fenced in areas, called exclosures or cages, are constructed to protect and develop colonies of native vegetation.  The cages protect the newly planted vegetation from being eaten by herbivores, such as turtles and grass carp. Native vegetation provides habitat for fish and waterfowl, reduces shoreline erosion, anchors sediment and improves water quality.

This June, 27 volunteers contributed over 270 hours to repair previously constructed cages, harvest and replant native vegetation and construct a new cage in upper Great Creek.

As in years past, Brunswick County provided a pontoon work boat for transportation of materials and personnel.  LGA provided lunch over the three day event. The Lake Gaston Weed Control Council and the Sport Fish Restoration Program provided funding.

Thanks to all the volunteers who came out this year.  You are making a difference!

In late June the Lake Gaston Weed Control Council (LGWCC) was made aware of a mussel die off was occurring in several areas of the Lake that had recently been treated for Lyngbya, an aquatic invasive algae.

Members of the LGA Lake Environment Committee responded immediately collecting information on the event. This was shared with Jessica Baumann, Extension Associate for NCSU's Aquatic Plant Management Group.

A position statement regarding this event and steps going forward are available on the LGWCC web page. Here is a link:  http://www.lgwcc.org/pdfFiles/WeedControl/LakeGastonLyngbyaMusselsRespose-June-2021.pdf