Port Of Wilmington

Is more dredging at Port of Wilmington worth the environmental impact?

Regulators say ports needs to do more if it’s going to disturb marine habitats as part of turning basin widening project

WILMINGTON -- A federal official wrote in a letter this week that mitigation efforts the N.C. State Ports Authority has proposed to further widen its turning basin at the Port of Wilmington are “inadequate” and suggested permits should not be issued until they are improved.

“The proposed mitigation for the loss of nursery habitat designated as a (primary nursing area) and (habitat area of particular concern) is inadequate and needs formal evaluation to assess benefits relative to impacts,” Virginia M. Fay, a National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) assistant regional administrator, wrote in a letter to federal agencies, the N.C. Department of of Environmental Quality and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The ports authority is pursuing state and federal permits to further widen and deepen its turning basin in the Cape Fear River south of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, expanding the basin from a width of 1,400 feet to 1,524 feet by dredging 45 feet down on the east and west sides. To move forward, the project needs a state 401 water quality certification, state Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) approval, and an Army Corps of Engineers permit -- and both federal and state environmental officials have expressed concerns.

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