WILMINGTON, N.C. (Dec. 5, 2012) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently completed construction of a rock arch ramp — or “fish passage way” — at the Cape Fear River Lock and Dam No. 1, located 32 miles upriver from Wilmington. Completion of the rock arch ramp coincides with the release of the “Cape Fear River Basin Action Plan for Migratory Fish” by the Cape Fear River Partnership, which includes the Corps of Engineers as a non-member organization playing a role in the development of the action plan.
The partnership, which is a coalition of state and federal natural resources agencies, academic entities and private and non-governmental organizations, released the draft action plan today.Public comments will be taken through Dec. 19.
The rock arch ramp is expected to improve passage of anadromous fish such as striped bass, American shad, river herring and sturgeon during their spring migrations to reach historical spawning grounds. An evaluation will follow the rock arch ramp construction,assessing fishes’ use of the ramp over a two-year study. This winter, the partnership will construct an ADA-compliant, 90-foot wide fishing pier for anglers, paved parking and access at the rock arch ramp, with plans to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony in spring 2013.
The partnership’s plan to begin constructing fishing access coincides with its request for public comment on its “Cape Fear River Basin Action Plan for Migratory Fish.” The draft plan provides long-term, habitat-based solutions for the most pressing challenges to migratory fish in the Cape Fear River basin, which stretches from North Carolina’s Triad area near Greensboro to the mouth of the Cape Fear River near Wilmington.
The plan identifies threats to migratory fish populations, outlines actions to improve water quality, habitat conditions and fish passage, and will determine the community and economic benefits of improved migratory fish populations, which include American shad, striped bass, river herring, American eel, and endangered Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon.
The public can comment on the plan three ways:
NMFS Office of Habitat Conservation, SSMC3
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Those interested in providing comment can access a full draft electronically or obtain a hard copy at the following locations:
- The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center, 7489 Raeford Rd., Fayetteville, N.C. 28314, 910-868-5003.
- The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, 127 Cardinal Drive Ext., Wilmington, N.C. 28403, 910-796-7315.
- Cape Fear River Watch, 617 Surrey Downs Ct., Wilmington, N.C. 28403, 910-762-5606.
All comments must be in writing.Comments will not be accepted by phone.
At more than 9,000 square miles, the Cape Fear River basin is the largest watershed in North Carolina. Poor habitat quality in rivers and streams threatens fish, such as American shad, striped bass, river herring, American eel, and endangeredAtlantic and shortnose sturgeon populations. Dams and other blockages prevent or delay many migratory fish from swimming upstream to lay eggs.
“Improved habitat conditions in the Cape Fear River will benefit not only these importantfish species, but also the communities that depend on the river for its abundant water supply and rich recreational opportunities,” said Anne Deaton, Habitat Protection Section Chief for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. “The economic value of recreational fishing on the Cape Fear is estimated to bemore than $1 million annually, and this number has potential to grow substantially as populations of some fish species expand in the Cape Fear.”
Keeping the public informed and sustaining public support are important to the partnership, according to Kemp Burdette, Cape Fear Riverkeeper with Cape Fear River Watch.
“This is a huge win for the Cape Fear River fisheries,” Burdette said. “With the completion of the fish passage at Lock and Dam No. 1 on the Cape Fear,anadromous fish will be able to swim upstream toward their historic spawning grounds for the first time in nearly a century. But there is still work to be done, which is why the action plan is needed to ensure we have a well-informed public providing input to the partnership throughout the project.”
About the Cape River FearPartnership
The Cape Fear River Partnership was established in 2012 to help improve the health of the Cape Fear River for migratory fish. Signatory partners, or organizations that played a role in developing the action plan, are: American Rivers, Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership, Cape Fear Arch Conservation Collaboration, Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, Cape Fear River Assembly, Cape Fear River Watch, the City of Wilmington, Dial Cordy and Associates Inc., Fayetteville Public Works Commission, the Lower Cape Fear River Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Natural Resources Conservation Service, New Hanover County, N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (Division of Soil &Water Conservation), N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (Divisions of Coastal Management, Marine Fisheries, Water Quality, and Water Resources), N.C. Forest Service, N.C. Natural Heritage Program, N.C. State University’s Cooperative Extension, N.C. State University’s Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Progress Energy, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Find out more about the Cape Fear River Partnership and how it’s working to improve the river’s habitat conditions for the benefit of fish and wildlife and the communities that depend on the river for water supply and rich recreational opportunities.