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BOLIVIA—Brunswick County needs a grassroots organization to improve water conditions in the Shallotte River.
Brunswick County planning director Leslie Bell told the planning board Monday it needs to start organizing to take advantage of river-clearing opportunities.
Bell proposed the county work with the North Carolina Coastal Federation to apply for a Clean Water Act Section 319 grant, which can be used to restore impaired water resources.
“We would need a watershed restoration plan to target restorations projects, and we need stakeholder groups to participate,” he said.
Bell said to pursue a grant this year, an application would need to be completed by May 23.
Planning board chairman Alan Lewis said three citizens’ groups have formed to promote the river dredging.
“If we want to get competitive funding dollars, we need all the groups aligned,” Lewis said.
Molly Hewett Long spoke to the planning board as a member of one of the citizens’ groups.
Long said the town of Shallotte has passed a resolution in support of dredging, and her group is working to get resolutions of support from Ocean Isle Beach and other towns, and wants a resolution from Brunswick County commissioners.
“The river is dying and dying slowly. Many of you can remember when the Shallotte River was very prosperous,” Long said.
Long added shrimp boats still use the Shallotte River “but they have to do it on a flood tide.”
Long said if they could get the river dredged, it would provide plenty of sand for the beach renourishment programs for area beaches.
Lewis said clearing of the Shallotte River is near and dear to his heart.
“I have been working with Congressman Mike McIntyre’s office for three years,” he said of trying to bring support to dredging the river.
Lewis said congressional authority to widen the river to 36 feet and dredge it to four feet deep was approved, starting at the Intracoastal Waterway, in 1913 and later extended to Shallotte in 1927, but no further action has been taken since.
He said he has proposed, and McIntyre has submitted a bill, to authorize digging the river channel to eight feet.
But he doesn’t think the bill has much of a chance.
“It would be a tremendous coup if it were authorized,” Lewis said.
He added that to be successful, they need McIntyre, Sen. Kay Hagan and Sen. Richard Burr.
Lewis said he made a recommendation to county commissioners to create a watershed roundtable similar to the group put together to look at the Lockwood Folly watershed in 2007.
With Bell’s recommendation, Lewis wants to see at least one representative from each citizens’ group be included on the roundtable.
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or email@example.com.