talk about emergency plan in case bridge fails again
The planning process to replace the Herbert C.
Bonner Bridge, begun soon after the ship hit the span 20 years ago, has
turned out to be as difficult and unruly as some trips through Oregon
At the brink of approval of the latest design plan, state and federal
officials are currently working to resolve an impasse that is
preventing start of construction.
Built in 1963, the 2.5-mile span outlived its expected lifespan years
ago, and is considered in poor condition. Only constant maintenance and
repairs keep the bridge safe to cross.
Concerns about additional delays in the replacement project, coupled
with the bridge’s continued deterioration , spurred North
Carolina Rep. Timothy Spear, D-Creswell, to recently call a meeting to
nail down an emergency plan in case the Bonner Bridge fails again.
“We need the new one in place before anything happens to the one we
have now,” said Beth Midgett, chairwoman of Dare County Citizens’
Action Committee to Replace the Bonner Bridge. It would be an extended
emergency. It wouldn’t be a month or two.”
Dare County has had a contingency plan in place since 2002 that
includes an emergency ferry system between Rodanthe and Stumpy Point,
said Dare County Emergency Management Director Sandy Sanderson.
But the system has its limits.
“It certainly doesn’t allow them to continue the lifestyle and the
movement people like to do with the bridge,” he said.
Maintenance of the channels used by those ferries is also a problem
because of costs, Sanderson said.
Similar to the experience 20 years ago, other concerns would be
emergency response, law enforcement staffing, electric power supply,
and telephone service.
But loss of the bridge means more than temporarily losing essential
services and supplies on Hatteras Island, Warren Judge, chairman of the
county Board of Commissioners, told Spear.
“Sustaining the population down there also means sustaining an
economy,” he said. “We’ll be in a state of despair because there will
be no economy.”
Spear asked county and state officials to coordinate a plan to address
the worst case scenario of loss of the bridge.
Doug Hoell, director of the state Division of Emergency Management, who
was involved in the crisis in 1990, said that the state has available
resources, such as emergency shelters and helicopters.
“I certainly hope we’re team players here,” Hoell said. “We want to
support you as much as we can.”