BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- For nearly a year, the gates at Orton Plantation in Brunswick County have been locked. Now we are finding out more about what's going on behind the iron bars, and some of it may land the owner in trouble. That's because the Army Corps of Engineers has ordered the new owner to cease and desist all renovations he's making on the wetlands.
"We got a phone call from some citizens, and they were concerned about possible destruction of wetlands on the Orton Plantation property," said Mike Giles of the NC Coastal Federation.
Giles said the wetlands are a vital part of our area.
Orton Plantation owner Louis Moore Bacon said he has never had intentions to harm the ecosystem. In a statement to WWAY Bacon said: "It was its intention at the time of purchase to restore the historic rice fields as an important piece of North Carolina's agricultural heritage. It remains the intention to restore these fields."
Bacon had a permit to do some agricultural work, but the Corps of Engineers found out he may have been doing more than was allowed, and ordered Bacon to stop work on April 20.
Giles said although the property belongs to Bacon and he can do with it what he wants, he still has to follow certain guidelines to preserve the wetlands.
"They act like a sponge and absorb water that would normally run off and cause problems," Giles said. "Also they act as an important wildlife habitat and fisheries habitat. Unique species live in wetlands, and species who don't live in wetlands depend on those."
He said the wetlands also act as a buffer to collect toxins and pollutants before the runoff gets into drinking or fishing waters. The Corps of Engineers and Bacon are scheduled to meet May 3 to decide whether he's going to apply for a permit to continue doing the renovations or if he's going to restore the wetlands.
Giles said he's not sure what Bacon plans to do with the property, but he believes Bacon is interested in waterfowl hunting and observation.