Save the Cape

North Carolina’s lower Cape Fear, embracing the estuary of the Cape Fear River, is one of the last large river mouths on the East Coast to escape industrialization.  Largely unmolested, it has been considered for status as a National Monument.

The unique and fragile environment of the Cape Fear is now under pressure.  The Corps of Engineers has carved out a channel to double the original depth of the river, disturbing the equilibrium that has existing for eons–and the Corps seeks to dig some more.  The Brunswick County Commissioners, by zoning large tracts for heavy industry, seek to replicate the coast of northern New Jersey along the Arthur Kill.  And the State of North Carolina planned a huge new marine container terminal.  After recently abandoning that project, NCDOT is now pursuing a project to deepen the channel even more.

The Megaport

A recent invitee of this industrial initiative is the North Carolina International Terminal, a project to construct the second largest container terminal in the East. In 2006, the North Carolina State Ports Authority purchased a 600-acre pristine site of woodland and marsh near the historic community of Southport and developed preliminary plans for a deepwater port where the water is not deep. Although economic realities and objections of elected representatives have caused a pause, the NC Department of Transportation and the Ports Authority have sunk $50 million into this $5 billion project. Click here for more information.

Saving the County

Brunswick County has zoned several square miles of undeveloped woodland and marshland in the southeastern part of the County for heavy industry–refineries and the like. Most of this area was identified as unsuitable for development or environmentally sensitive in a recent land use analysis under the Coastal Area Management Act. But they did it anyway. There is money to be made. Click here for more information.

Saving the River

Over the last century, the Corps of Engineers has been dredging a channel in the Cape Fear River to constantly deeper depths, as much as 20 feet deeper than the natural depth.  The last dredging project, now estimated to cost $562 million of Federal and North Carolina funds, has gone far beyond the point of equilibrium and requires constant maintenance dredging to keep the channel open.  The sand from the beaches at the river mouth finds its way into the “sediment sink” of this artificial channel and must be constantly replenished.  All for the sake of two ships per week from Asia.  It is time to consider the real needs of North Carolina’s commerce and benefits of restoration of the river to a sustainable depth.  Click here for more information.

Note:  In September 2014 the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Governor announced plans to deepen the Cape Fear River channel to 45-47 feet to accommodate a new generation of container ships.  We shall be examining this project and its potential consequences. NCDOT has not done that.

Saving the Cape

In 1955, the National Park Service determined that our seashores were at risk and recommended reserving the most sensitive areas, including the Cape Fear.  In 1967, the Service recommended the Cape Fear be designated a National Monument. Since then some areas have been reserved by the State of North Carolina, but much of the region is in private hands and has been spared only by the slow progress of development.  But development has become a greater threat and this “biodiversity hotspot” can only be protected adequately by a complete structure of governmental and private reservation.  Click here for more information.

Help Us

We need your help.  This has been entirely a volunteer effort.  We need more volunteers for research, analysis, and communication.  We need money for expenses and facilities.

We point to the Save the Bay organizations at the San Francisco Bay, the Chesapeake Bay, and Narragansett Bay–permanent organizations with a strong voice.  That’s where we’re going.  Help us get there.  Click here for contact information.