Cape Fear River Completes Fish Passage Way

The rock arch ramp, 32 miles from Wilmington, will allow striped bass, American shad, river herring and sturgeon to spawn upstream.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently completed construction of a rock arch ramp ( a.k.a. "fish passage way") at the Cape Fear River Lock and Dam No. 1, located about 32 miles upriver from Wilmington.

"Improved habitat conditions in the Cape Fear River will benefit not only these important fish species, but also the communities that depend on the river for its abundant water supply and rich recreational opportunities," said Anne Deaton, Habitat Protection Section Chief for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. "The economic value of recreational fishing on the Cape Fear is estimated to be more than $1 million annually, and this number has potential to grow substantially as populations of some fish species expand in the Cape Fear."

At more than 9,000 square miles, the Cape Fear River basin is one of the largest watersheds in North Carolina, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to past Greensboro. Dams and other blockages prevent fish such as striped bass, American shad, river herring and sturgeon from migrating upstream to spawn.

The rock arch ramp is expected to improve passage of these anadromous fish during their spring migrations to reach historical spawning grounds. An evaluation will follow the rock arch ramp construction, assessing fishes' use of the ramp over a two-year study. This winter, the partnership will construct an ADA-compliant, 90-foot-wide fishing pier for anglers, paved parking and access at the rock arch ramp.

Completion of the rock arch ramp coincides with the release of the "Cape Fear River Basin Action Plan for Migratory Fish" by the Cape Fear River Partnership. The draft plan provides long-term, habitat-based solutions for migratory fish in the Cape Fear River basin. The plan identifies threats to migratory fish populations, outlines actions to improve water quality, habitat conditions and fish passage, and will determine the community and economic benefits of improved migratory fish populations.

Public comments will be taken through Dec. 19. Make your comments:

Fax: 301-713-4305, attention Janine Harris

Mail: Janine Harris

NMFS Office of Habitat Conservation, SSMC3

1315 East-West Highway

Silver Spring, MD 20910