Water Management Plan

Tundra swans by Jeff Lewis

The Draft Water Management Plan and Environmental Assessment for Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge  (try this link if the document won't load) is now available.   The comprehensive plan describes how water management may occur on the refuge over the next 15 years to achieve strategical goals and objectives in the refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan. See the June 16, 2020 News Release for details.

You’re invited… 

To Submit Written Comments 

Email: pocosinlakes@fws.gov

Mail: Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge P.O. Box 329, Columbia, NC 27925

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The deadline for submitting your comments is August 31, 2020. 

Comments must be submitted by email by August 31, 2020 or postmarked by August 31, 2020. Comments already submitted do not need to be resubmitted. Anyone who has already submitted comments may submit additional comments through August 31, 2020.

You may request a written copy of the document by emailing pocosinlakes@fws.gov


Working with a diverse set of partners, the Service has restored over 37,000 acres of unique peatland habitat that is important to wildlife and people alike. This is one of the largest wetland restoration projects of its kind in the country.

With the vast majority of restoration efforts now complete, the refuge is shifting to a focus on science-driven adaptive management to reconnect and invigorate a healthy pocosin landscape and to continue to provide high quality habitat for thousands of wintering swans, geese, and ducks as well as many other migratory birds and wildlife species.

The draft WMP charts the course for refuge management in the coming years in a way that provides a clear understanding of the refuge’s use of water resources and protects Service investments in this restoration.Once the comment period closes, the Service will consider comments received, finalize the WMP/EA, and announce the availability of the final plan.    

Other Important Information:  

History: 

Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge encompasses approximately 110,106 acres of Washington, Hyde, and Tyrrell Counties in eastern North Carolina.  The Refuge is comprised of more than 8,300 acres of managed waterfowl habitat, more than 44,000 acres of highly altered peatlands, and more than 57,600 acres of minimally altered peatlands. 

Pocosin (a Native American term meaning “swamp on a hill”) wetlands occur on peat domes and are at slightly higher elevations than the surrounding lands.  On most of the refuge, rainfall is the only manner through which water is added to the system.  

The extensive ditch system in this unique habitat drained and artificially dried out the peat soil, degrading habitat and making the areas more susceptible to catastrophic wildfire.  Since the refuge’s establishment – early 1960s for the Pungo Unit and early 1990s for the rest of Pocosin Lakes NWR, the Service has installed a resilient system of infrastructure that counteracts the impacts of ditching and draining by retaining and conserving rainwater to provide high quality wintering waterfowl habitat and restore more natural pocosin wetland hydrology and habitat.     

Healthy pocosins are foundational to healthy ecological and human communities.  The restoration is benefiting wildlife and people by maintaining high quality wetland habitat as well as reducing the chances of catastrophic fire.  When pocosins function as nature intended, seasonal water level fluctuations moisten the soils protecting against catastrophic fire, ease the impacts of storm flows, and repel the ever increasing threat of salt water intrusion in surrounding lands. 

Extreme weather events, including periods of significant rainfall and periods of drought, can have significant impacts on refuge and adjacent lands, infrastructure, and water drainage.  In anticipation of these impacts, the draft WMP calls for a more comprehensive approach of supportive and complementary strategies on and off-refuge aiming to broaden the understanding of water movement on the landscape, identify barriers to water movement or other issues across the landscape, and identify opportunities for incentive programs and other possible solutions for addressing barriers and issues identified. 

The Service is now looking towards long-term management of the refuge’s habitats that will guide water management to help achieve the refuge’s purposes. The plan proposes to enhance and maintain water management across habitats on refuge. Additionally, the draft plan’s objectives and strategies aim to enhance high quality habitat for wildlife, notably waterfowl, neotropical migratory birds, and other wildlife and game species.