October 1, 2013
SELC action will further delay the
critical Bonner Bridge replacement
Southern Environmental Law Center today asked the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., to overturn a North Carolina
federal district judge’s ruling that would allow construction to begin
on the Bonner Bridge replacement project.
In a news release,
the North Carolina Department of Transportation said, “The appeal will
mean further delay in building a parallel bridge to replace the current
bridge, which is already 30 years beyond its expected life cycle and in
constant need of repair and maintenance to keep it safe for travel.”
additional stall tactics of the SELC continue to put a strain on
taxpayer money and our ability to keep this vital lifeline open for the
people of eastern North Carolina and the millions of visitors who
travel to the area each year,” said NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata. “As the
federal judge’s ruling confirmed last month, NCDOT cares about the
economy, the environmental impact, and the people in all that we do.”
DOT notes that the aging bridge “stands on borrowed time and is one storm or incident away from having to close permanently.”
Sept. 16, NCDOT received a favorable ruling in the federal lawsuit
filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the
Defenders of Wildlife and National Wildlife Refuge Association when
Judge Louise Flanagan of the Eastern District of North Carolina issued
a 42-page order, denying all claims that NCDOT violated federal law
when the department studied and selected the parallel bridge.
Sept. 27, Judge Julian Mann III issued an order allowing NCDOT to
intervene in the state action filed by the SELC, on behalf of the
Defenders of Wildlife and National Wildlife Refuge Association, against
the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of
Coastal Management for issuing the permit to NCDOT.
DOT says its legal staff is working to resolve the state action as quickly as possible.
In their own media release today,
SELC, Defenders of Wildlife, and the National Wildlife Refuge
Association said they asked the appeals court “to ensure that there is
adequate public consideration of total project impacts—including
disclosure of the long-term costs—and safer, more reliable alternative
routes across Oregon Inlet to the village of Rodanthe.”
The groups made the same points in the release that they made to Flanagan – points that were soundly rejected by the judge.
of constructing a safe, reliable route that would serve North
Carolinians for the next 50 years, NCDOT is pushing a piecemeal plan
for N.C. 12 that ignores the basic problem: this stretch of highway
continually washes out because the island is eroding out from
underneath it,” said Julie Youngman, senior attorney at the
Southern Environmental Law Center. “NCDOT seems determined to send
taxpayer money out
to sea with the highway, as it predictably washes into the ocean.”
insistence on this outdated route for N.C. 12 has gone beyond the
impractical to the absurd,” added Jason Rylander of Defender of
Wildlife. “The agency itself has acknowledged that erosion will undo
the time, labor and expense of this futile project in less than a
decade. There are sustainable alternatives that provide reliable
transport and protect the refuge at the same time.”
The groups filed the notice of appeal just two weeks after Flanagan’s decision.
Bonner Bridge is currently undergoing necessary repair work to keep the
bridge open and safe for the traveling public as long as possible.