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Eno River State Park to Prepare for Pleasant Green Road Dam Removal

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Michael F. Easley, Governor
William G. Ross, Jr., Secretary

Release Note: 
Charlie Peek
Release Date: 
Monday, February 27, 2006

Eno River State Park to Prepare for Pleasant Green Road Dam Removal

RALEIGH -- A drawdown of the 21.8-acre impoundment at the Pleasant Green Road Dam in Eno River State Park is scheduled to begin March 1 in preparation for the dam's removal later this year, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

The dam removal project will restore free-flowing characteristics to a 1.5-mile reach of the Eno River, improving habitat for both common and threatened species of fish, mussels and other aquatic wildlife. The project is a cooperative effort of the state parks system, the N.C. Division of Water Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A 2001 study of the dam, which is 122-feet long and 12 feet high, determined that its failure is likely. Two existing weir gates are inoperable, and there is evidence of seepage and structural weaknesses that pose safety and liability issues for the state park. The dam was built in 1915 by Duke Power Co. to provide cooling water for a steam generation plant. The plant was dismantled in 1958.

"Removing the dam is the wisest option in terms of protecting the river's wildlife resources, and it's also the most cost effective," said Brian Strong, head of the natural resources program for the state parks system. "Gradually draining the impoundment this spring will allow much of the area to regenerate naturally during the summer growing season and will allow our staff to monitor for potential erosion problems before the dam is removed."

The cost of dam removal, restoration of the river's banks and restoration of wetlands at the intake area of the former steam plant is estimated at between $92,000 and $229,000. Estimates for replacing or repairing the dam range from five to ten times as much.

A detailed environmental assessment of the project concluded that removing the dam will expand the local habitat of rare fish species such as the Carolina darter and Roanoke bass as well as endangered mussels, including the Atlantic pigtoe mussel and yellow lampmussel, that are vital in protecting water quality. The mussels depend on the migration of fish to carry their larvae. The assessment also noted that dam failure could suddenly release sediment trapped behind the dam, and the resulting plume would threaten wildlife downstream.

The drawdown is expected to take two to three weeks, and the park's Pleasant Green Access will be closed at least through March 15. The Pleasant Green Road Dam is located 270 feet upstream of the Pleasant Green Road (SR 1567) bridge, northwest of Durham in Orange County.

The second phase of the project is expected to begin in the fall and will include actual demolition of the dam and restoration of up to 1,600 feet of the river's banks upstream of the dam. Portions of the impoundment's banks, including some on property of homeowners at the northern reaches of the impoundment, will be restored to a natural slope and will be planted with native trees and shrubs. Sediment immediately behind the dam will either be stabilized or removed.