Monday, November 28, 2022

State Ports Authority proposes to dredge wetlands, re-expand turning basin at Wilmington port

A North Carolina State Ports expansion proposal would remove over an acre of wetlands and over an acre of shallow bottom habitat.

Wilmington's port could get expanded again after a North Carolina State Ports expansion project just recently was completed two months ago. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy North Carolina State Ports Authority)
Wilmington’s port could get expanded again after a North Carolina State Ports expansion project just recently was completed two years ago. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy North Carolina State Ports Authority)

WILMINGTON — After recently completing a turning basin project finalized in August 2016, the Wilmington port is proposing to expand its channel even wider and deeper.

North Carolina State Ports Authority is asking the Department of the Army to modify its current authorization order to allow for further dredging and expansion at the Wilmington Port.

RELATED: Whatever happened to . . . NC Ports $4.5 billion, 600-acre ‘megaport’ project in Brunswick County?

In 2016, the North Carolina State Ports Authority announced the completion of its turning basin project. The project expanded the Wilmington Port’s turning basin by 200 feet, removed a bulk pier and dredged the Cape Fear River near the port’s location.

Now, the State Ports Authority wants to expand the recently expanded basin even further.

Plans show the State Ports Authority is asking to dredge coastal wetlands near the turning basin, deepen the channel, and install a vertical submerged toe wall.

Nearly 18 acres of shallow and deep soft bottom habitat are proposed to be deepened to 45 feet below the lowest low tide level. In total, the dredging would result in the loss of approximately 1.4 acres of vegetated wetlands and 1.7 acres of shallow bottom habitat.

This loss of wetlands and habitat would be permanent, site plans state. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined federally endangered or threatened species may be affected by the project. Because of this, no permit will be issued until the Army Corps finalizes its consultation process.

To account for this “unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment,” the State Ports Authority proposes to install 3 acres of marsh near Shellbed Island in conjunction with ongoing National Audubon Society’s oyster restoration projects.

This recently proposed expansion is needed in order to accommodate European and Asian fleets that continue to increase in size.

In its expansion application, the State Ports Authority did not include a certification that would show dredging work would comply with the North Carolina Coastal Zone Management Program. The Army Corps’ approval of the State Ports Authority’s request is contingent upon the port supplying this certification.

A public comment period began today, Nov. 15, and will end on Dec. 15.  Comments pertaining to the proposed site plan and project description may be delivered mailed to Liz Hair at the Army Corps Wilmington Regulatory Division at 69 Darlington Avenue,
Wilmington, North Carolina 28403.

Comments will also be accepted via email to Sarah.E.Hair@usace.army.mil.


Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

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