Back to top
a group of men and women stand outside at a groundbreaking ceremony
Attendees from the “Living With Water” Groundbreaking Ceremony on February 9, 2024. (Photo: Alan Cradick)

‘Living With Water’ Wetland Restoration Project Kicks Off in Wilmington

March 20, 2024

The innovative “Living with Water” (LWW) habitat restoration project broke ground in Wilmington, North Carolina on February 9, 2024, and was commemorated by a groundbreaking ceremony at the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial. 

The USS NORTH CAROLINA Battleship Commission, NOAA, and our partners are implementing the project  to address severe flooding issues at the popular tourist destination on the Cape Fear River. The project will convert more than 800 linear feet of hardened wharf to an intertidal living shoreline, and will remove two acres of impervious flood-prone parking to recreate estuarine wetland habitat. This highly visible project is uniquely positioned to showcase how nature-based solutions can provide community resilience benefits and protect infrastructure, while simultaneously creating habitat and improving ecological health and function. Construction activities are expected to be complete by July 2024.

One of Ten Restoration Projects Selected

The LWW project is one of 10 restoration projects selected by the Kerr McGee Natural Resource Trustees (Trustees) as part of the Natural Resource and Damage Assessment settlement to compensate for pollution impacts to coastal habitats. The Trustees—NOAA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality—are taking a phased approach to restoration, with 10 projects selected for Phase 1 and planning for Phase 2 restoration in late 2024.

The restoration project used a novel “Living With Water” design concept, where water is treated as an asset and incorporated into the design, as opposed to “protecting” infrastructure from it. The project includes a redesigned parking area “bowl” that incorporates channels to capture runoff and redirect surface waters to the constructed wetland. The lower parking lot will be replaced with intertidal and subtidal estuarine habitats that support fish and wildlife. Restoring the natural landscape will provide habitat for juvenile finfish species such as flounder, red drum, and shad, as well as a variety of benthic organisms. The wetland restoration will also provide flood mitigation benefits because of the habitat complex's water attenuation capacity. And the living shoreline component of the project along the battleship wharf will not only provide fringe marsh habitat, but also address erosion conditions throughout the site.

About the Hazardous Waste Site

The Kerr-McGee Chemical Corporation Corp. site is a former wood-treating facility located on a 250-acre parcel of land adjacent to the Cape Fear River, Brunswick River, and Sturgeon Creek in Navassa, North Carolina. Creosote and sludge remaining from the wood treatment process were left on site, which led to the release of contaminants into the surrounding groundwater and marshes. Levels of contamination in marsh sediments remain high enough to continue to have a negative impact on the benthic habitat and the ecological service it provides. The surrounding environment provides important habitat for many types of fish and wildlife, including American shad, Atlantic sturgeon, Atlantic menhaden, southern flounder, and spotted and striped bass.

NOAA and our partners reached a settlement with the responsible party in 2014, and provided more than $23 million for restoration in the Lower Cape Fear watershed.

Additional Resources

For more information and to stay in the know, sign up for DARRP’s Coastal Recovery news.

more images

an aerial rendering of a restoration project
a group of men and women stand outside at a groundbreaking ceremony