lawsuit will not be decided anytime soon
The lawsuit over construction of the Bonner Bridge replacement will not
be decided in federal court anytime soon.
recent filing in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North
Carolina details a proposed schedule, which all parties agreed to, that
stretches into late summer 2012.
Defenders of Wildlife and the
National Wildlife Refuge Association, represented by the Southern
Environmental Law Center, sued the North Carolina Department of
Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration in July to stop
construction of the planned 2.7-mile, “short” bridge project for a
replacement parallel to the current span.
groups contend that a previously-proposed 17.5-mile bridge that
bypasses Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge was not properly studied
as a feasible alternative.
On Monday, Cape Hatteras Electric Membership Corporation filed a motion
to intervene in the action, joined with defendants.
the motion, the electric cooperative said it currently plans to spend
about $9.3 million to run transmission lines across the new bridge,
with $465,250 in annual maintenance costs. But if the long bridge that
plaintiffs favor became the preferred alternative, the document said,
costs would jump to about $39 million and $2 million, respectively.
should a high-speed ferry be used instead of a bridge,” the motion
said, “it is unclear how CHEMC would be able to deliver power to
Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island absent enormous expense.”
of the aged bridge would likely cause power outages that could last 30
to 60 days, according to the motion. In addition, the
has an interest in fulfilling the terms of its utility contract with
NCDOT and keeping electric lines serviced for the islands.
such, maintaining access to and over N.C. Highway 12 is of vital
importance to CHEMC,” the motion said. “Indeed, CHEMC
power to the refuge itself.”
Jason Rylander, attorney for
Defenders of Wildlife, said that its recent filing was a routine
scheduling of deadlines to provide documents and responses to the
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Chief Judge Louise Wood
Flanigan in New Bern.
said that the schedule the attorneys agreed on would be completed
before construction of the planned bridge would be expected to begin.
As proposed, the first of numerous deadlines is Jan. 31, and the last
is Aug. 6.
Currently, construction of the bridge is expected to begin by late
2012, with the targeted opening date in early 2015.
to the joint report filed on Oct. 19, the case is expected to be
resolved on the basis of review of the administrative record, which is
the collection of documents that were used by defendants in deciding to
issue the project permit.
That means there will not be a
trial. The judge will make a summary judgment. The parties also agreed
that Alternate Dispute Resolution, a mediation process, would not be
fruitful, and did not consent to assignment of the case to a magistrate
The plaintiffs are seeking “declaratory and injunctive
relief,” in its action, Rylander said, not an immediate preliminary
injunction that could stop the project in its tracks.
court rules in their favor, he said, it would be expected that the
matter would be sent back to the agency for further consideration.
judge could also issue an injunction to stop the project until certain
demands are met, schedule a hearing, or dismiss the complaint.
keep the public updated on the project, the department has posted the
legal documents on the Bonner Bridge webpage,
For previous Island Free Press articles on the lawsuit, go to: