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Three years later, Corps updates plan for shoreline / October 26, 2016
It took nearly three years, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has finalized its update to the shoreline management plan for Kerr Lake, providing clarity for landowners and lake enthusiasts who could only wait for the Corps to set new rules for permitted uses of shoreline property.

Among the impacts of the updated plan is a lifting of the USACE moratorium on new dock permits for lake residents. The freeze on new dock permits while the plan was under review was blamed by many real estate representatives and dock builders for putting a damper on real estate sales and property development around Kerr Lake.

USACE unveiled the updated shoreline plan on Wednesday of last week. The publication of the new rules comes nearly three years after the Corps embarked on the update.

Every two decades or so, the Corps amends the shoreline management plan, which covers a multitude of rules for what land uses are and aren’t allowed on the two-state flood control impoundment. The last update was completed in 1995. Since then, the number of land acres covered by the plan — known as the project acreage — has fallen from 66,263 acres to 55,754 acres. Over the same period, the share of acreage on which the Corps will allow the placement of private docks has shrunk from 31 percent to 30 percent.

In the two decades since the Shoreline Management Plan was last updated, the number of private dock permits has ballooned from 2,744 to 4,436, which includes the period when the moratorium on new permits was implemented. As the general object of the plan is to “maintain the aesthetic and environmental characteristics of the reservoir for the full benefit of the general public,” the Corps 2016 Shoreline Management Plan is written in a way that limits private development along the shoreline. The goal of the USACE is to “achieve a balance between private uses and protection of natural and cultural resources for use by the general public.”

Under the newly adopted plan, nearly 17 miles of shoreline were re-allocated, adding nearly one mile of new recreational property and just over 11 new miles of protected property.

Recreational property includes existing parks, quasi-public lease areas, recreational trails, wildlife management areas, and other areas reserved for future recreational development. No private use shoreline facilities or activities will be permitted within or near designated or developed public recreation areas.

Protected shoreline encompasses areas designated for maintaining or restoring aesthetic quality, protecting and conserving natural and cultural resources, providing fish and wildlife habitat, and reducing conflicts between private and public activities. Docks and other land-based facilities permitted or licensed in Protected Shoreline areas prior to this plan will be honored to current and future owners provided permit conditions are maintained, but no new permits or licenses will be allowed.

The 2016 Shoreline Management Plan can be found online at Anyone with questions regarding the 2016 Shoreline Management Plan and or applying for a shoreline use permit should contact the John H. Kerr Project Office at 434-738-6143.

Shoreline plan at a glance

The new USACE Shoreline Management Plan comes with new rules. They include provisions regulating the size of docks, the distance allowed between docks and the length of the boundary line that must abut USACE property to obtain a dock permit. For the most part, these rules apply to new permits, not to dock permits issued under the prior Shoreline Management Plan.

The major rules are as follows:

Applicants for a Shoreline Use Permit and/or Real Estate License must own private property adjacent to public land, and provide proof of the ownership with a recorded deed and recorded survey plat (prepared by a registered surveyor). This provision eliminates future deeds of easement.

Dock permits associated with a deed of easement will no long be issued and existing permits, unless associated with a perpetual easement will expire once a change occurs (e.g. through death or sale of either piece of property) with any of the parties involved with the easement.

Docks without boat slips cannot exceed 320 square feet and those with boat slips are limited to 960 square feet.

To be considered for floating facilities (docks), the subject property must have at least 50 feet of common boundary with Corps owned property.

The property for which the owner is seeking a dock permit cannot be extremely shallow or narrow. Finger lots, will not qualify for permits and/or licenses.

Lots in certain areas designated as “limited development” by the Corps (areas on which private docks are permitted) with a common boundary of less than 50 feet, but greater than 20 feet, may obtain a permit to install walkways and to clear vegetation, but do not qualify for a dock permit.

Newly approved walkways and other land based facilities, must, to the greatest extent possible, be placed directly in front of the area where the applicant and Government share a common boundary.

If one house, other dwelling, or supporting structure (e.g., driveway, swimming pool, garage or porch) occupies more than one identified piece of property, the properties together will be considered one lot for purposes of issuing a dock permit.

New docks may not be installed within 50 feet of the “projection line,” the boundary between different property owners, if the property owner has 100 feet or more of “primary frontage,” land abutting Corps property along the lake or come within 50 feet of another dock.

Vessels moored at private docks cannot exceed 40 feet in length or be fitted with a marine sanitation device (MSD).

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