WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Wilmington City Council approved a resolution of support for a plan to protect the drinking water supply of more than half-a-million Southeastern North Carolina residents.
Located near Riegelwood, about 39 miles from the mouth of the Cape Fear River, Lock & Dam No. 1 is the intake point for 80 percent of the drinking water provided by the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA).
Along with two other dams further upstream, Lock & Dam No. 1 is owned and maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). It was built in 1915, and in 1943 the predecessor of CFPUA constructed an intake for raw water to supply Wilmington. In 1984, the Lower Cape Fear Water and Sewer Authority (LCFWASA) added an intake for its system.
In 2012, a fish passage structure was added as an environmental trade-off when the Port of Wilmington sought to widen its turning basin.
The last time Lock & Dam 1 saw any commercial traffic, its original purpose, was 1995. In the time since, the USACE has been evaluating “disposition” of the three dams, meaning the Corps would no longer be responsible for operating and maintaining the infrastructure.
In 2018, the money to fund a study of what it would take to de-authorize and dispose of the properties finally came available, and in recent months USACE has finalized its recommendation that the dams be “de-authorized” or turned over to another, non-federal governmental group.
Wilmington’s resolution joins others passed by local governments and boards in the area.
Mayor Bill Saffo said he hopes the official position will make it clear to the USACE how seriously local leaders are taking the future of the locks.
“This is a very important issue for our community, for this region," Saffo said after the meeting. "This is where we get our drinking water, and we just wanted to make certain that the Corps of Engineers understood, first of all how important it was for drinking water in Southeastern North Carolina but more importantly that it be given to a group or an authority that will maintain it to the standards that we would like to see.”