July 16, 2013
Opponents of Bonner Bridge replacement
win a round on CAMA permit
By CATHERINE KOZAK
permit to build the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge replacement is almost
certainly going to be put on hold indefinitely after a recent decision
in Wake County Superior Court agreeing to a review of environmental
groups’ challenge to construction of the project over Oregon
After the state Coastal Resources Commission
issued a major CAMA permit in September of last year to allow the
project to begin, the Southern Environmental Law Center, representing
the Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association,
filed a third-party hearing request to appeal the case to an
administrative law judge.
The CRC denied the request on Oct. 23.
late November, the SELC filed a petition for judicial review of the
CRC’s decision in Wake County Superior Court. That is the case
that was heard in late June.
“The judge indicated that he
would rule in favor of the SELC,” said Michele Walker, spokesperson for
the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources. “However,
that’s not an official decision because we do not have the order.”
the signed order from the judge is received by the state, a formal stop
work order on the project will be issued, she said.
But Walker said the project has been essentially on hold for months.
“It’s kind of a moot point,” she said. “It was stayed pending the outcome of this hearing.”
said that the expectation is that the order will be finalized this
week, but the recent opening of the county’s new courthouse may have
created a delay in the process.
It is not known whether the
state attorney general’s office intends to appeal the recent ruling,
she said, or allow the case to go to the Administrative Office of the
Courts, giving the SELC the opportunity to challenge the CAMA permit
decision in a hearing.
In his decision to deny SELC’s request
for the hearing, CRC chairman Robert Emory said that the SELC failed to
meet the required criteria to challenge the permit, which had been
issued after a 30-day public comment period and reviews by four federal
and 10 state agencies.
A decision on a separate legal action
on the project by the environmental groups is expected any day now from
a federal court in New Bern.
U.S. District Court Judge Louise
Flanagan has been asked to rule on a challenge to the project’s
environmental impact statement.
Bobby Outten, Dare County
manager and county attorney, said that whatever the federal decision
is, it could potentially influence a state case, but many variables
come into play depending on the legal questions in each case.
most recent estimate for completion of the Bonner Bridge replacement
was 2016 or 2017, including demolition of the old bridge. Construction
had been expected to begin early this year.