RALEIGH, N.C. (Nov. 22) - When Carbonton Dam comes down in January, the Deep River along the Lee/Moore County line will flow freely for the first time in nearly a century, restoring traditional fish passages and linking fish and mussel populations that have been separated since 1921.
Biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission say the dam's removal will benefit aquatic wildlife by re-opening more than 10 miles of river to a number of fish and mussel species that depend on free-flowing water to survive.
The N.C. Dam Removal Task Force, a contingent of state and federal agencies, identified Carbonton Dam in 2004 as one of several dams in the state that, if removed, would result in significant ecological benefit, including improved water quality and aquatic habitat.
Biologists from the Commission, N.C. State University, the N.C. Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences saw the dam's removal as an excellent research opportunity. Over the past year, they have sampled several sites upstream, in the impoundment, and downstream from the dam to determine what species were present in the different habitats.
What they found was a diversity of aquatic wildlife, including mussels, such as the eastern elliptio, triangle floater and Roanoke slabshell, as well as popular game fishes, including largemouth bass and redbreast sunfish. They also found several species of nongame fishes, such as the whitefin shiner, the rare Carolina redhorse and the federally endangered Cape Fear Shiner, a small minnow found only in a few locations in the Cape Fear River basin.
Biologists will continue sampling over the next few years to document any changes in fish and mussel populations that may occur once the impounded habitat is restored and fish movement is unrestricted up and down the Deep River.
With the dam's removal the river level will fall approximately 15 feet, making unusable the Commission's Carbonton Boating Access Area off Hwy. 42 in Moore County. However, Restoration Systems, the environmental restoration company that purchased the dam and is charged with the dam's demolition, proposes to construct a new access area for canoes and non-motorized boats at the current dam site.
Sampling efforts on the Deep River are part of the N.C. Wildlife Action Plan, which benefits the health of fish, wildlife and people by conserving wildlife and natural places.
These efforts are funded through the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Fund, which is the primary source of state funds for the Commission's Faunal Diversity and Aquatic Nongame programs. The Commission uses this fund, which supports nongame species research and management, to generate matching money for federal grants.
To find out more about the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Fund or the N.C. Wildlife Action Plan, visit the Commission's Web site, www.ncwildlife.org