CAPE CARTERET — The N.C. Coastal Federation is trying to find funding to fix a major problem at the engineered wetlands stormwater management system it constructed in Cape Carteret.
But Dr. Lexia Weaver, coastal scientist with the environmental group, said Friday the outlook for an immediate solution is not encouraging.
The federation, based in the nearby Ocean community, built the system at its own expense in 2016 in front of Cape Carteret Baptist and Cape Carteret Presbyterian churches off Highway 24. The idea at the time was to filter pollutants from Highway 24 and adjacent parking lots before they flowed through an existing culvert into adjoining Deer Creek, a tributary of Bogue Sound.
The ponds in front of the churches were at the time choked with nuisance vegetation and not working well as a stormwater management or pollution-filtering system, and town officials and the churches gave the go-ahead.
But torrential rains – close to 30 inches – from Hurricane Florence over a few days in September 2018 eroded a berm that separated two stretches of the engineered wetlands. While the wetlands still filter pollutants, the loss of the berm has allowed silt to flow into the portion of Deer Creek just east of Yaupon Drive, angering town officials.
NCCF has acknowledged the problem. Dr. Weaver said the N.C. Department of Transportation has said it will handle the repair, but “they have pushed the construction bidding back to 2022.”
NCDOT officials, she said, have said the delay is due to the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on its budget, in large part because of decreases in gas tax revenue as people drive less during the pandemic.
“They have had to furlough a lot of people and put projects on hold,” Dr. Weaver said. “We don’t like that the project has been delayed – it (the system) really looks bad, and that’s a bad reflection on us – but it’s really in DOT’s hands now. In the meantime … we will be looking for other funding.”
The siltation in the creek has gotten to the point where there’s a sandbar, which, particularly at low tide, makes navigation difficult if not impossible for all but the smallest boats. Water is sometimes virtually stagnant, town officials say.
Commissioner Don Miller during a recent town board meeting called it a serious environmental issue, and the town’s planning board Chairperson, John Ritchie, has been highly critical of the federation, saying it has ruined the creek.
The town is working with Carteret County’s Shore Protection Office Manager, Greg Rudolph, to try to get the creek dredged as part of a project to dredge the Old Ferry Channel, which runs from Cape Carteret to Emerald Isle in Bogue Sound.
Mr. Rudolph said recently that dredging Old Ferry Channel and Deer Creek adequately under the county’s latest plan could cost close to $1 million, with one third of that from the state, one third from the county and one third from “local participation.”
The county, he said, “is committed to the project” in one form or another.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.