September 20, 2012

State issues CAMA major permit for Bonner Bridge construction

By IRENE NOLAN

Following a thorough environmental review, the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management has issued a Coastal Area Management Act major permit to the state Department of Transportation to construct a replacement for the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge in Dare County and to demolish the existing bridge after the new structure is completed.
The permit was issued following a 30-day public comment period, and reviews by four federal and 10 state agencies.
The Division of Coastal Management has worked closely with DOT and other state agencies throughout the planning and development process for this project.
DOT plans to replace the existing 2.4-mile two-lane bridge over the Oregon Inlet and related approaches with a new 2.8-mile two-lane bridge and related approaches to the west of the existing bridge. The new bridge will be constructed parallel to the existing bridge.
Over the next four months, NCDOT anticipates receiving federal permits and easements from:

  •     U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  •     U.S. Coast Guard
  •     National Park Service
  •     U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
 
Upon receiving these permits and easements, NCDOT hopes to move forward with the Bonner Bridge Replacement Project in early 2013, pending the outcome of an ongoing lawsuit.

This is a multi-phase project that includes replacing the existing bridge over Oregon Inlet and providing for the long-term retention of Highway12 between Oregon Inlet and Rodanthe.
 
Phase I of the project will build the new bridge just west of where the Bonner Bridge currently stands. Phase II includes implementing long-term solutions for the major breaches on Pea Island and Rodanthe caused by Hurricane Irene in August 2011.

The earliest the bridge would be completed is 2015.
 
The exact plan for implementing future phases will be determined, based on the department’s active coastal monitoring program. This helps NCDOT decide where and when to make improvements to Highway12 from the south end of the Bonner Bridge to Rodanthe. Any of the alternatives (beach nourishment, road relocation and bridging) previously studied as part of the project’s original environmental analysis could be considered for future phases.
Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, filed a lawsuit in July 2011 to stop the construction of a parallel bridge.
These groups prefer a 17-mile bridge out into the Pamlico Sound, which would come ashore in northern Rodanthe.
In their complaint, the groups charge that the Federal Highway Administration and NCDOT violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it decided to build the parallel bridge.
That lawsuit is in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina and has been assigned to Judge Louise Flanagan in New Bern.


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