Court to Hear Concerns Regarding Bonner Bridge State Permit
Conservation groups today filed a petition with the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings outlining serious concerns over the N.C. Department of Transportation’s proposed Bonner Bridge replacement route across Oregon Inlet to Hatteras Island. The petition was filed after a Wake County court ruled that their concerns merited a court hearing on the state’s issuance of a Coastal Area Management Act permit to the NCDOT.
“NCDOT’s plan ignores both the environmental impacts of the bridge and its responsibility to provide reliable, safe access across Oregon Inlet to Rodanthe on Hatteras Island for years to come,” said Julie Youngman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.
According to the conservation groups, the CAMA permit for NCDOT’s project violates laws designed to protect North Carolina’s valuable coastal resources. The NCDOT still has not obtained the necessary permits to build its proposed bridge replacement and construction cannot begin until all permits are issued by agencies, including some that questioned NCDOT’s plan.
The proposed NCDOT project would rebuild a new bridge over Oregon Inlet to replace the existing Bonner Bridge at its current location and continue dependence on NC 12 without a long-term plan to address the frequent washouts, floods and other damage that repeatedly cut off access between Hatteras and the mainland for weeks at a time.
“It’s common sense that you must be able to reliably reach a bridge for it be a transportation route. Otherwise, Bonner Bridge will just become a long and expensive pier,” said Jason Rylander of Defender of Wildlife. “This plan will turn Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge into a permanent construction zone with the constant restoration of roads and bridges knocked out by storms.”
As proposed, NCDOT’s project fails in its responsibility to provide a reliable transportation route from the mainland to Rodanthe for the next 50 years. Damage and new inlets from recent storms forced NCDOT to propose a patchwork of new bridges and road segments within Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on the narrow, vulnerable north end of Hatteras Island. NCDOT admits that the island is eroding and that the bridges it plans to build within the wildlife refuge, each several miles in length along the beachfront highway NC 12, will be located on the beach and then in the sea in less than 10 years.
“Now that a judge has ruled the state commission improperly applied the law, a court will hear concerns that the NCDOT proposal does not comply with North Carolina laws intended to safeguard the priceless natural areas of the Outer Banks that attract so many visitors and wildlife each year,” said Desiree Sorenson-Groves of the National Wildlife Refuge Association .
Representing Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association, the Southern Environmental Law Center argues that the state’s permit should have considered the detrimental effects of a whole transportation route—including the bridges in the refuge and all segments of the NC 12 within Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge—rather than isolating and considering just the new bridge over the inlet.
The groups also argue that the inlet bridge itself will violate North Carolina’s CAMA and impermissibly harm navigation, recreation, and wildlife.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.