Nighttime view of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia

Governor Signs Bill Allowing Alternate Names for Buggs Island Lake

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has now signed Senate Bill 972 into law, which allows state and local agencies to refer to Buggs Island Lake as “Kerr Lake” or the “John H. Kerr Reservoir.”

Legislation passed in 1952 required state and local agencies to refer to the reservoir only as “Buggs Island Lake,” which was declared to be the reservoir’s “true and proper name.” Congress had originally given it the name of “Buggs Island Reservoir” in 1944 but abruptly changed the name to the “John H. Kerr Reservoir” in 1951 to honor a North Carolina congressman, angering Virginia lawmakers at the time. The majority of Buggs Island Lake is located in Virginia.

As I reported previously, modern-day tourism officials feared that their inability to refer to Buggs Island Lake by these other, more widely known names was hampering efforts to promote the region. Senate Bill 972 was introduced primarily to address these concerns. Senator Frank M. Ruff, Jr. sponsored the bill.

Governor McAuliffe signed the bill into law earlier today, March 10, 2015. Senate Bill 972 had been approved by the Senate on January 21, 2015 in a nearly unanimous vote and by the House of Delegates on February 13, 2015 in a unanimous vote. The full text of the enacted bill is available here.

The new law will not go into effect immediately, however. Because Senate Bill 972 did not specify an effective date, it will take effect on July 1, 2015 under the default rules imposed by Article IV, Section 13 of the Virginia Constitution.

For more coverage, please read my original post on this topic, in which I extensively examined Senate Bill 972 and the controversial history behind the name of Buggs Island Lake.

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Derrick P. Fellows

Derrick P. Fellows is an attorney with Hawthorne & Hawthorne, P.C. in Victoria, Virginia. Follow him on Twitter at @dpfellows.

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