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Tom MacKenzie, (USFWS-Atlanta) 404-679-7291 c: 678-296-6400

National Wildlife Refuges and Edenton National Fish Hatchery Recovering From Hurricane Isabel in North Carolina
- $22 million in damages -

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Southeast Region is hard at work restoring access to National Wildlife Refuges and the Edenton National Fish Hatchery in North Carolina following Hurricane Isabel. Many refuges currently remain closed to public use due to the thousands of trees blown down by 100 mph winds across the roads and onto buildings.

“We hope to have most of the major roads cleared within one or two weeks,” said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director. “There are going to be significant challenges ahead, but we are getting the big stuff off the access roads and buildings as quickly and safely as we can.”

Hamilton went on to say there will be much larger projects ahead requiring backfilling of damaged dikes, piers, docks and road repairs, and significant work to repair recently built walkways for visitors accessibility to the unique habitats of North Carolina.

One endangered red wolf in the captive breeding program at Sandy Ridge Captive Wolf Breeding Facility at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge was killed by a falling tree on its’ enclosure. Two others escaped their pen but have been recaptured.

Initial damage repair estimates reach nearly $22 million to roads, buildings and other infrastructure. These figures may rise or fall when more detailed inspections can be conducted as flood waters recede and trees are removed from roads and canals. Many roads are still blocked by trees at the following locations: Mattamuskeet, Alligator River and Pocosin Lakes and Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuges and the Edenton National Fish Hatchery. Teams of qualified firefighters skilled with chain saws and debris clearing experts of the Service from several states are using specialized equipment to clear roads and restore and repair facilities.

“We haven’t even had a chance to look at the damage to many vehicles yet,” said Hamilton. “The refuge staff moved most equipment to safe areas prior to the storm, but some of the gear needed to stay close to be in position to respond. Unfortunately, some equipment has been hit by trees and more may be damaged by saltwater flooding.”

Additional Law Enforcement officers are helping insure public safety at the refuges. A tractor trailer loaded with supplies, rations, bottled water and generators has been staged to help get the facilities back on their feet. More than 30 emergency responders skilled at chainsawing and clearing debris, as well as pilots and operators of dumptrucks, chippers, dozers, and other specialized equipment volunteered to help their fellow refuges and the fish hatchery recover. They come from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Puerto Rico.

Current situation across affected area as of Sep 29, 2003:

Emergency Response and cleanup ( $2.2 million) 30 emergency responders, dozer operators, pilots with equipment from three states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico deployed to support the 70 Service employees in the recovery effort.

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) ( $5.5 million in damages): Closed. Trees are down across the refuge, blocking most refuge roads, with approximately 30 miles having moderate to heavy downfall. Many canals have trees across them as well. The East Lake Maintenance Facility sustained damage and the helibase support building was completely destroyed. The Sandy Ridge Captive Wolf Breeding Facility wolf pens were severely damaged. One red wolf was killed by a falling tree and two others escaped the enclosure. Both were recaptured. The Manteo Office building roof received minor wind damage. Water control structures have been blocked or damaged across the refuge due to flooding. Forest health will have to be closely monitored to determine long term effects of salt water flooding and spray. An eight person chainsaw and equipment task force from other Southeastern Refuges is helping refuge staff clear 54 miles of road clearing (so far). Buffalo City Road, Milltail Road were reopened and work is progressing on Koehring Road. Power, phone lines and finally today, the Internet cables have been restored at the Manteo Office. The East Lake Maintenance Facility continues to be out of power and remains dependent on a generator.

Pocosin Lakes NWR ( $3.9 million in damages): Now open to the public. The Office and Educational Facility at Columbia received minor damage. The boardwalk was heavily damaged in places. Three refuge buildings were flooded at Lake Phelps from the storm surge. Wind and tree damage to the roofs of these buildings has been assessed and require substantial repair work. Heavy tree damage occurred across the refuge with 40 miles of road. Heavy debris is clogging water control structures around the Refuge. A ten-person chainsaw and equipment operation task force continues helping refuge staff clear roads. The Office and Educational Facility have power restored, as has the Fire Control Office at Pungo. Refuge staff are pulling out carpets and appliances as well as repairing roofs at the Field Station and residence. The field station is being evaluated to determine if it is repairable.

Mattamuskeet NWR ( $2.9 million in damages): Limited access to public. Trees are down across the refuge, blocking most refuge roads. Roof damage was found on two buildings at the Refuge headquarters. Substantial damage was done to the Refuge water control structures, pumping stations and impoundments. Mattamuskeet is using two two-person chainsaw teams from other Southeastern Region Refuges to help cutting and clearing trees off of refuge roads. Cleanup continues at the office facility and across the refuge roads. The Mattamuskeet Office and maintenance shop both have power and phones.

Swanquarter NWR ($2.6 million in damages): Closed. Significant damage to the Bell Island Pier, bulkheading, and parking area from the wave action of the storm surge. The pier is damaged but appears repairable. Local resident’s boats were seen in the middle of corn fields. Thousands of acres of unharvested crops have been ruined by brackish water flooding.

Pea Island NWR ( $2.5 million in damages): Closed. The Pea Island office and maintenance facility buildings sustained minor damage. No flooding was experienced in the buildings, but sand was blown in requiring heavy cleanup. Two pump houses and one pole barn that were heavily damaged, with the pole shed likely needing replacement. Bulkheading was washed out on the north end of South Pond impoundment. Possible damage to water control structures. North Carolina Department of Transportation continues to repair the damages done to the barrier dunes system and dig out the sand on the four miles of overwash that occurred on NC-12 on the refuge. The highway has been re-opened to one lane of traffic yesterday and remains this way today.

Roanoke River NWR ( $1.1 million in damages): Closed. Significant wind damage occurred at the Roanoke River Office and Maintenance Facility, especially to roofs. The shop building lost its roof, and the office roof was damaged. A 30 foot travel trailer was torn loose from its moorings and overturned. On the Refuge, the worst forest damage occurred along the Highway 17 corridor and the primary river channels where the wind toppled a significant percentage of trees. The shop facility roof has been determined to be too unstable to repair and will need significant contractor support to repair the building. The office facility has generator power. If Roanoke NWR does not get flooded again by the additional rainfall, it will be at least 7 days before chain saw crews will have access to the primary refuge road.

Currituck NWR ( $300K in damages) Open to the public. Some structural damage to buildings and facilities.

Mackay Island NWR ( $780K in damages): Open to the public. Storm cleanup continues at Mackay Island. 10 miles of roads damaged. Structural damage to buildings and facilities.

Edenton National Fish Hatchery ( $476K in damages) Hurricane Isabel knocked down trees around and onto the hatchery, and electricity was out for six days. Power has now been restored to the hatchery. Hatchery operations and equipment are dependent upon electrical power for operation. The generators are being staged there to resume operations if power fails again. The generators powered large pumps used to oxygenate the ponds when dissolved oxygen reached critical levels early Friday morning in some of the ponds. A chainsaw and hand crew of 21 from the North Carolina Forest Service and Southeast refuges were able to complete about 75% of the cutting needed at the facility. To date, no significant fish kill has occurred, as happened following the Hurricane Floyd event.

Cedar Island NWR ( $50K in damages): Open to public. Damage assessment is showing that Cedar Island appears to have gotten by with minimal damage to Refuge infrastructure and resources. Minor windthrow of trees reported across the refuge. No flooding at the office or Maintenance facility. A large amount of debris is washed up on Refuge lands from surrounding marsh and islands. The communities of Atlantic and Cedar Island received a substantial amount of flood damage. Forest health will have to be closely monitored to determine long term effects of salt water flooding and spray.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

Photo Gallery of Hurricane Isabel





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