Developing A Plan To Restore Lake Mattamuskeet

May 9, 2018

Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina
Credit Allie Stewart, USFWS

State and Federal agencies are seeking public input on how to restore North Carolina’s largest natural lake.  Jared Brumbaugh has more.

In 2016, Lake Mattamuskeet was listed as an impaired waterbody by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.  Erin Fleckenstein, coastal scientist with the North Carolina Coastal Federation said they’ve been working with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Hyde County to develop a watershed restoration plan for Lake Mattamuskeet.

“This coalition of partners has been working together formally for the past year, but informally for the last decade or so trying to identify the issues and concerns around the lake and the lake watershed.”

Test results have consistently shown above normal pH and chlorophyll a levels, which have led to toxic algal blooms.  Aquatic grasses, which support fish and crab habitat and provide food for waterfowl, have disappeared from the lakebed.  And land around the lake is flooding more frequently and for longer stretches of time.

“A lot of it has to do with the fact that the water in Lake Mattamuskeet is controlled by water control structures on four main canals. And those canals connect the lake to the Pamlico Sound and the Alligator River.  The watershed is dependent on gravity drainage so when water levels in the sound are high, or the wind direction and rain conditions aren’t favorable, then water cannot flow out of the canals.”

Fleckenstein added rising sea levels and silting in the canals have resulted in a poorly functioning drainage system. 

“The problems didn’t happen overnight so the solutions…we won’t be able to find a silver bullet solution for this.  But we’re working to identify what are the immediate strategies and longer term strategies are for improving conditions in and around the lake.”

On May 8th, residents had the chance to learn more about the restoration project and provide input. Other public meetings are planned for July 10th and September 8th at the Hyde County Government Complex in Swan Quarter.