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Lake Environment Committee

Maintaining the environmental well being of Lake Gaston

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 5.1.1.2 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.

Annual Lake Gaston Volunteer Vegetation Survey Is Kicking Off, Volunteers Needed!!

It’s that time of year again!  From September 1st to October 31st, volunteers’ will be documenting aquatic vegetation, both good and bad, around the entire 350 miles of Lake Gaston shoreline.  This survey is a collaborative effort between volunteers from the Lake Gaston Association (LGA), North Carolina State University (NCSU), and the Lake Gaston Weed Control Council (LGWCC), but anyone is welcome to come join in on the fun!

This survey is an important tool that goes directly into determining the upcoming management plan for Lake Gaston’s aquatic plant community! The data collected during this survey is used to capture the abundance and diversity of the aquatic plant community and to monitor nuisance species, such as hydrilla and lyngbya. Therefore, volunteering for the survey is a great way for homeowners to actively participate in the management of aquatic plants around their area of the lake!

In order to volunteer, all you really need is access to a boat and a few hours to spend on the lake! The shoreline is divided into survey sites, but volunteers are able to choose sites that are most convenient for them. Prior to the survey volunteers are issued all of the equipment they will need to survey, including a handheld electronic tablet for data collection. The equipment can be used from any water vessel and volunteers don’t have to be an expert at identifying aquatic plants to participate! You will be provided with a plant ID booklet that will cover most of the plants you will encounter at Lake Gaston.  We will also provide several informative videos that will explain the vegetation survey in detail and provide you with some tips on aquatic plant identification. Don’t worry, we will make sure you feel completely comfortable before sending you out on the lake!!

 If you  or have questions regarding this year’s survey, please contact Jessica Baumann, Extension Associate for Lake Gaston with NC State University’s Aquatic Plant Management Program, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 If you are interested in participating please sign up now using this link to an electronic form that will collect your basic contact information and allow us to get an idea of your preferred survey site.  https://forms.gle/o4DFLdGbovMqkCsU7 

 

 

 

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

 

If you would like to report an issue regarding aquatic plant species at Lake Gaston, NC/VA, use this link to a Goggle Form. Reported issues will be evaluated by NC State's Extension Associate and considered in any future management plans conducted by the Lake Gaston Weed Control Council.

Due to Dominion's Shoreline Management Plan, management of native species (i.e. Water Willow) is currently prohibited. However, by adding your information to the database you will be considered if management actions are permitted in the future.

https://forms.gle/HDETJHXqjLKuArj66