DEQ submits letter of intent to obtain ownership of Cape Fear River locks and dams

Raleigh, NC

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) submitted a letter of intent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, on behalf of the state of North Carolina, to obtain ownership of three locks and dams in the Cape Fear River between Wilmington and Fayetteville.

“Maintaining the locks and dams is essential to protect water quality and water supply for our communities, as well as to improve fish passage, and enhance flood mitigation and resiliency,” said Secretary of DEQ Michael S. Regan. “State ownership of all three locks and dams creates future stability, ensures that all interests are represented, and protects these environmental and cultural resources that are so important to our citizens.”

Session Law 2008-186 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.

DEQ staff have held several meetings with federal, state and local officials since April of 2019 to ensure all interests and concerns would be 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.  DEQ held additional meetings in February 2020 with the local utilities to further discuss their interests and reinforce that the state would continue to prioritize protecting water supply for the communities that rely on these areas for their drinking water.

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.

The letter is available on the DEQ website.

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