Senate Bill 160 Includes Removing A Portion Of New Inlet Dam; "The Rocks"

Senate Bill 160 Includes Removing A Portion Of New Inlet Dam; "The Rocks" Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 06 May 2015 04:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

PLEASURE ISLAND, N.C. - A bill making it's way through the North Carolina Senate proposes to remove a portion of the New Inlet Dam (The Rocks) that runs from the southern tip of Pleasure Island at Fort Fisher south into neighboring Brunswick County. The wall was built in the late 1800's to stop sand from entering the shipping channel in the Cape Fear River.
Senate Bill 160 titled, "Enhance Safety & Commerce for Ports/Inlets" includes a section setting up a mechanism to remove the southern portion - the largest section of the wall.
The bill was submitted by Michael V. Lee (Rep. District 9, New Hanover County).
The bill states, "The General Assembly finds that the New Inlet Dam or "The Rocks" is a breakwater established by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in the late 1800s. The New Inlet Dam is composed of two components, a Northern Component that extends from Federal Point to Zeke's Island and a Southern Component that extends southwestward from Zeke's Island and separates the New Inlet from the main channel of the Cape Fear River" and, "The General Assembly finds that the Southern Component of the New Inlet Dam impedes the natural flow of water between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean that occurred prior to emplacement of the dam."
The bill reads, " The General Assembly finds that it is necessary to remove the Southern Component of the New Inlet Dam in order to reestablish the natural ecosystem of the mouth of the Cape Fear River and its environs."
The bill states the Department of Environment and Natural Resources shall do all of the following:
(1) Notify the United States Army Corps of Engineers of the State's intent to remove the Southern Component of the New Inlet Dam.
(2) Issue a Request for Proposals for a firm capable of conducting all aspects of removal of the Southern Component of New Inlet, including securing all necessary State and federal permits and developing and implementing a removal plan.
(3) Execute a contract with the firm chosen to implement subdivision (2) of this section and exercise oversight of the fulfillment of the contract.
Kure Beach Town Council member Emilie Swearingen explained last week, "Seriously, Sen. Lee? We have so many OTHER projects that need to be addressed. The State is trying to find money to deepen the port for maintenance and to (maybe) prepare for the new "big" ships, and now you want to risk putting more sand IN the shipping lanes? This idea did NOT come from Pleasure Island officials or residents."
The area east of the rocks is a popular destination for kayakers and people with shallow draft boats. It's shallow in many places and wind surfers can often be seen standing in shallow water far from shore.
According to the Federal Point Historic Society, from an article written in their November 1995 newsletter by Sandy Jackson, "In 1870 the Corps of Engineers made a postwar survey of the Cape Fear River under Gen. J. H. Simpson. The results of Simpson’s survey supported closing New Inlet, south of Fort Fisher, prior to any dredging in the river, since sand washed in the inlet would quickly refill the channel. The River Improvements Act of July 11, 1870, appropriated funds for the Cape Fear improvements. General Simpson and Colonel Craighill of the US. Engineers devised a work at the New Inlet breaches to intercept the sand being washed into the river by the northeasterly gales and to then prevent the spilling of vast volumes of water through the breaches. The works were intended to close the small inlets contiguous to the main inlet, thus forcing the water into the main channel of the Cape Fear River and scouring the channel to a capacity to admit vessels."
The project worked to closing the breaches between Smith [Bald Head Island] and Zeke’s Islands and during the 1870-1871 fiscal year the Corps of Engineers reported that a 607-foot section of the breakwater and superstructure had been completed across the most difficult breach that contained the deepest and strongest current.
It was a long process while dealing with the elements and a storm that breached the project.
According to the Federal Point Historic Society, "By 1891 the Corps had completed the 12,800-foot Swash Defense Dam to its proper height and width" and, "The length of the upper section of the dam extended Battery Buchanan on Federal Point to Zeke’s Island, a distance of 5,300 feet. The continuation of the Swash defense dam from Zeke’s Island to Smith’s Island, 12,800 feet, made the entire closure just over 3 miles in length. “The Rocks,” as the entire dam was eventually called, measured from 90 to 120 feet wide at the base, and for three-fourths of the line the average depth of the stone wall was 30 feet from the top of the dam. The Corps of Engineers topped the Rocks with concrete during the 1930s. The Rocks still separate the Cape Fear River from the ocean.
You can learn more about "The Rocks" by visiting the Federal Point Historic Preservation website at http://federal-point-history.org
We will bring you more on Senate Bill 160 in next week's edition.

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