WILMINGTON, N.C. (May 29, 2013) — The Cape Fear River Partnership, a coalition of state and federal natural resources agencies, academic entities and private and non-governmental organizations, will release tomorrow the final version of the “Cape Fear River Basin Action Plan for Migratory Fish” — a blueprint that provides long-term, habitat-based solutions for the most pressing challenges to migratory fish in the Cape Fear River basin.
The plan will be unveiled during a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Bladen County to celebrate the completed construction of a rock arch ramp — or “fish passage way” — at the Cape Fear River Lock and Dam No. 1, which is located 32 miles upriver from Wilmington.
Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which constructed the rock arch ramp, will cut the ceremonial red ribbon at 10 a.m. to mark the official opening of the rock arch ramp.
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 period.
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 endangered Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon populations. Dams and other blockages prevent or delay many migratory fish from swimming upstream to spawn.
While completion of the rock arch ramp at Lock and Dam No. 1 is the first step in restoring access to historic migratory fish habitat, passage past 2 additional lock and dams on the river in Bladen County will have to be provided before these species will have unimpeded access to their historical spawning grounds located at Smiley Falls near Erwin in Harnett County. Providing fish passage beyond these two barriers is critical to re-building migratory fish populations in the Cape Fear River and is a top priority of the action plan.
In addition to providing a blueprint for restoring fish access and improving habitat and water quality, the action plan will assess the community and economic benefits of improved migratory fish populations on tourism, recreation, fishing and other commercial uses.
“A strong migratory fish population could have immense environmental, economic and recreational benefits for local communities,” said Anne Deaton, Habitat Protection Section Chief for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. “For example, in 2011, North Carolina anglers spent more than $1.5 billion on fishing related activities. This number emphasizes the economic importance of restoring aquatic habitat connectivity to support sustainable fish populations in North Carolina.”
Read the final version of the “Cape Fear River Basin Action Plan for Migratory Fish” or visit the Cape Fear River Partnership page (www.habitat.noaa.gov/protection/capefear/) for more information.
About the Cape River Fear Partnership
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 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 and North Carolina Forest Service), N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (Divisions of Coastal Management, Marine Fisheries, Water Quality, and Water Resources and the N.C. Natural Heritage Program), North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, N.C. State University’s Cooperative Extension, N.C.Wildlife Resources Commission, Duke 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.