Contact: Don Reuter (919) 715-4112
Date: November 24, 1999
State Targets Third Dam in Neuse River Basin for Removal;
Marines to Blow Up Structure in Training Exercise

RALEIGH - The 71-year- old Rains Mill Dam in Johnston County will fall to U.S. Marine explosives starting Dec. 1, opening an additional 49 miles of spawning areas along the Little River to several fish species. The 10 a.m. ceremony is expected to draw dozens of citizens and officials interested in fish habitat, including Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has signed a $67,000 contract with R&W Construction Co. of Jacksonville to clear debris from the dam after a team of Marines uses explosives to reduce the 12-foot high dam to rubble as part of a training exercise. Rains Mill Dam will be the third such dam in North Carolina to come down for environmental purposes in the past two years. Quaker Neck Dam on the Neuse River near Goldsboro, owned by CP&L, was turned over to the state by the utility for removal in December 1997. In 1998, the state also removed a small dam on the Little River behind Cherry Hospital. DENR's Division of Water Resources has been the lead agency in planning the removal of all three dams.

DENR Secretary, Bill Holman, said "by removing these three obsolete dams, most of the Neuse River Basin can be returned to fish that have been blocked from their normal migratory paths for years. The prospects are good that we can significantly strengthen fish population in the Neuse and Little rivers over the next few years."

The 250-foot wide cement dam, located at the bridge on N.C. Highway 1002 just west of US 70 East near Princeton, was built in 1928 by local farmer J. W. Baker to support a gristmill built at the edge of the dam. The Rains Mill dam project has involved participants from DENR and the Coastal America Partnership that includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Foundation.

John Morris, director of DENR's Division of Water Resources, said the removal of the dam "has been thoroughly reviewed and will not cause environmental damage or increase flooding. Instead, it will lower flood levels upstream of the dam."

The dam's removal, according to Mike Wicker of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, "opens 49 more miles of Little River streams and tributaries as spawning areas for anadromous fish (American shad, hickory shad, short-nosed sturgeon, striped bass, and alewhites). Removal of the Rains Mill Dam also offers much needed protection to tar spiny mussels and dwarf-wedge mussels."

For more information about the dam removal, contact John Morris in the Division of Water Resources at (919) 715-5422.

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