State agency moves forward with intent to obtain ownership of Cape Fear River locks and dams

Raleigh, NC

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), on behalf of the state of North Carolina, is proceeding with a letter of intent 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.

The decision is the result of Session Law 2008-186 which recognizes there is no federal interest in maintaining and operating the locks and dams and allows the state to acquire them. The three locks and dams were originally built along the Cape Fear River in the early 1900s for commercial navigation but have not been used for that purpose since 1995.

“The state of 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. “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.”

DEQ staff have held several meetings with federal, state and local officials since April of 2019 to ensure all interests and concerns were addressed should the state take over the locks and dams. On Dec. 18, 2019, DEQ hosted a meeting with community organizations, local utilities and leaders in the area to gather input and assess their priorities and concerns. The results were emailed to all attendees.

After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers receives the letter of intent, U.S. Congress must make a decision to de-authorize the locks and dams and to determine a willing non-federal entity to obtain ownership. State officials estimate the real estate transaction process will take two to five years.

This press release is related to: