SUSTAINABLE RIVERS PROGRAM
Home
Home > Sustainable Rivers > Sites > Cape Fear River

Cape Fear River, North Carolina

Serving people, wildlife and ecosystems through improved fish passage

In North Carolina, the Cape Fear River serves people and wildlife, making its water quality and water quantity of the utmost importance. The Cape Fear River Basin contains many different aquatic ecosystems but urban and agricultural runoff affect the river as a valuable water resource. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' projects, which include B. Everett Jordan Lake, three locks and dams, and dredging operations provide water supply, flood control, water quality, navigation, recreation, and fish and wildlife conservation. 

The locks and dams, which serve multiple purposes, are also a barrier for diadromous fish attempting to reach historic spawning grounds. To help with fish passage on Lock and Dam 1, the Corps completed a rock ramp fishway in 2012. The Corps and its partners, including The Nature Conservancy, are assessing the potential for modifying the rock ramp passage, and potential fish passage structures on the other two locks and dams.

Project Site - Slide Show

Cape Fear River

Collapse All Expand All

The Cape Fear River encompasses 9,164 square miles making it the largest river basin contained entirely within North Carolina. According to the 2010 census, the river basin contains over two million people, which is one‐fifth of the state’s population. The upper basin contains rapidly growing cities such as Greensboro, Durham, Chapel Hill and others which contribute urban runoff into the river. The mid and lower Cape Fear basin have extensive confined agricultural feeding operations, also contributing to high levels of nutrients in the river. There are drinking water users throughout the entire basin, including growing cities like Wilmington in the lower basin, who are trying to maximize water resource use.

The US Army Corps of Engineers has multiple projects influencing the Cape Fear River basin, including managing B. Everett Jordan Lake, operating three locks and dams, and dredging. Jordan Lake’s five project purposes are to provide water supply, flood control, water quality, recreation, and fish and wildlife conservation. Jordan Lake was almost immediately impaired for high levels of nutrients, and the State declared it a nutrient sensitive water body the same year that the reservoir was completed. Jordan Lake supplies drinking water to over 300,000 upper basin users.

The three locks and dams were built between 1915 and 1935 to assist commercial traffic up and down the river. But, they are rarely used for large vessels. The locks and dams also support water intakes for cities such as Wilmington and Fayetteville. However, the locks and dams also impede diadromous fish from reaching their historic spawning grounds with commercial fish landings are 87 percent lower than historical estimates over the past two centuries.

To help with fish passage on Lock and Dam 1, the Corps completed a rock ramp fishway in 2012. Through the Section 408 process, modification to USACE Property, partners, including The Nature Conservancy, are assessing the potential for modifying the rock ramp passage, and potential fish passage structures on the other two locks and dams.

The Cape Fear River Basin contains many different aquatic ecosystems, lending itself to a diverse species assemblage including 95 species of commercial and recreational fish, 42 rare aquatic species, and streamside habitat that hosts, at over 2000 years old, the oldest trees east of the Rocky Mountains. Both people and wildlife rely on the Cape Fear, making its water quality and water quantity of the utmost importance.

Following a category 1 hurricane that brought heavy rains to central North Carolina and the Cape Fear River basin in 1945, the Corps was directed by Congress to study the region's water resources needs and flooding issues. The B. Everett Jordan Lake project was approved in 1963 as the New Hope Lake project, with construction beginning in 1967. In 1973 the project was renamed in honor of former Senator B. Everett Jordan. The reservoir impounded in 1981, and reached normal pool level in 1982.

The three Cape Fear River locks and dams projects were part of a 1902 congressional authorization that allowed their construction as improvements to Cape Fear River navigation between Wilmington and Fayetteville.

The Corps is also responsible for maintaining the Wilmington Harbor Federal Navigation project. Dredging ensures save navigation and continued commerce via the Port of Wilmington. Additionally, the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point relies on the Wilmington Harbor Federal Navigation Project to support military operations overseas.

Publications

Browse records in Title that    Search     
No records found.