State continues on with plan to buy Cape Fear River locks and dams

State continues on with plan to buy Cape Fear River locks and dams
Lock & Dam No. 1, located on the Cape Fear River near Riegelwood, was built in 1915. (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The NC Department of Environmental Quality says they’re moving forward with their plan to obtain ownership of three locks and dams in the Cape Fear River between Wilmington and Fayetteville.

The state plans to send the letter of intent by February 28, 2020.

Lock and Dam No. 1 is a major water source for New Hanover County. The site near Riegelwood is the intake point for 80 percent of the drinking water provided by CFPUA.

Local leaders emphasize the infrastructure is critical to making sure 600,000 people have a supply of raw water.

In a 2018 study, the US Army Corps of Engineers recommended the dams be de-authorized and turned over to a non-federal governmental group. The Corps is now spending $450,000 each year on the three dams, but in the past, the funding has been closer to $800,000 to cover the costs.

The DEQ has been holding meetings with state and local officials since last spring; In December, the DEQ held public meetings to gather input and answer questions from the community.

“North Carolina recognizes the importance of maintaining the locks and dams for flood control and resiliency, to protect water quality, water supply, fish passage, aquatic habitat and recreational opportunities in the Cape Fear River,” said Secretary Michael S. Regan in a press release. “Many groups depend on the ongoing operation and maintenance of these locks and dams and state ownership ensures that all stakeholder interests are represented moving forward.”

Once the US Army Corps of Engineers receives the letter of intent, congress must make a decision to de-authorize the locks and dams and “determine a willing non-federal entity to obtain ownership.”

Officials expect the real estate transaction process will take two to five years.

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