Historically, the lower Roanoke River Basin has been an important wintering area for mallards, black ducks, wood ducks, and many other species of migratory birds. Periodic wet and dry cycles are normal for this habitat and a primary reason for its high level of productivity. With the construction of an upstream dam, the resulting flooding regime has not favored sustained use by wintering and breeding waterfowl or other migratory birds. Manipulation of river levels for power generation, recreational use, and flood control has altered natural flooding cycles. In addition, withdrawal of water for municipal use may be accentuating low flows during drought periods. Control of winter flooding has reduced the availability of food resources for waterfowl.
The Whitley Tract is located approximately 2 miles northwest of Williamston, North Carolina in Martin County. The project site is a 75-acre agricultural field surrounded by bottomland hardwood forest and is within the Roanoke River floodplain. A portion of the site is subject to inundation when the river is above flood stage. The goal of the project is to provide and maintain a stable habitat base for waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species within the lower Roanoke River Basin. This was accomplished by constructing levees and installing water control structures. In addition, a well and pump station were installed to provide a source of supplemental water during drought periods. All habitat improvements were completed on June 30, 2004 and will allow the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to manage the area for waterfowl and other migratory bird species. The area is managed as a public game land and is opened to waterfowl hunting on a quota permit basis.
Funding for this project was provided by DU, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, and the North American Wetlands Conservation Council.