KURE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — It’s OK to be disappointed. After all, everyone loves otters, right?
The NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher says its plans to open a new otter exhibit have been delayed.
The collection of new Asian small-clawed otters was originally planned for 2019 with construction starting next month. But the aquarium now says it will be delayed one year.
“The aquarium has been planning this build for a long time with design and funding in place,” Associate Director Brian Dorn said in a news release. “We developed a critical window for construction to limit the impact on guests and animals, but no one could plan for the impact of Hurricane Florence.”
According to the release, the high demand for construction trade firms as a result of Hurricane Florence reduced the immediate interest and availability for the project by building contractors. This competing demand is expected to continue for some time. In addition, the aquarium says shifting the construction timeline later into the year would have a negative effect on the visitor experience during the summer months when the aquarium hosts as much as 50 percent of its annual visitation.
“Our goal is to create the best possible space for the otters to help share their critical conservation story, while also limiting any inconvenience for visitors,” Dorn said. “The delay is not ideal but is necessary to succeed in this.”
Aquarium management expects to rebid the project in summer 2019, with an anticipated construction start in early winter 2020. The work will last approximately five months and significantly renovate existing space in the aquarium’s freshwater conservatory. Interactive water elements, space for separate otter family groups and behind-the-scenes care areas are all part of the approximately 3,000 square foot habitat. Funding for the $1.2 million project comes from private donations, the North Carolina Aquarium Society and aquarium receipts.