December 6, 2013
Governor presses environmental groups
to end lawsuit at press briefing
By CATHERINE KOZAK
viewing the compromised area on the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge on Friday,
Gov. Pat McCrory said that placement of dredged sand may offer a
temporary solution to dangerous scour that compelled the state to close
the bridge this week for safety reasons.
Engineers with the
state Department of Transportation showed the governor where a group of
pilings under the bridge have lost severe levels of sand, or scoured,
which undermined the integrity of the structure.
“It’s getting too close for comfort,” McCrory said at later press briefing at Oregon Inlet Fishing Center.
of sand from the inlet’s navigational channel will begin Saturday and
is expected to last for about two days, weather permitting. The sand
will be deposited in the area under the bent –a group of pilings – on
the south end of the bridge where the serious scour has been observed
by sonar and divers.
The governor was joined by officials
with Dare County, the DOT and the Ferry Division, as well as numerous
citizens concerned about access to Hatteras Island.
inside the fishing center store enjoyed a laugh when McCrory
mistakenly identified Dare County commissioner Allen Burrus as
“the president” of Hatteras Island.
previous statements made by him and Secretary of Transportation Tony
Tata that called for environmental groups to withdraw a lawsuit against
the DOT that has stopped construction of replacement of the 50-year-old
bridge over Oregon Inlet.
Citing a ruling earlier this year by
U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan on a separate lawsuit against the
project that favored DOT, McCrory characterized the groups’ opposition
to the new bridge as a “pseudo environmental issue that does not exist.”
“They’re blocking this effort,” the governor said. “It’s inexcusable and we’re calling them out.”
said he will contact board members and staff of the environmental
organizations and urge them to drop the legal action. He added that
some of the environmental groups’ board members may not know about the
legal action against the state.
The governor confirmed that state Secretary of Revenue Lyons Gray is a member of the Defenders of Wildlife Board of Trustees.
was not aware of them being a plaintiff and he is going to try to get
them to change their mind,” the governor said. “And if they don’t
change their mind, he’s going to resign.”
In a response to a
statement made in a newspaper by one attorney for the plaintiff,
contending that the DOT still needed to secure permits for the bridge,
McCrory said that the court’s hold on the CAMA permit is the only thing
that is preventing construction.
A spokesperson for DOT,
Nicole Meister, later explained that federal permits from the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service have not yet been issued, but none of them are expected to be
denied. The Corps permit is in the process of being re-issued because
of a technicality, she said, and the Coast Guard , as a policy, cannot
issue its permit until the legal matter is resolved. The permit with
the Fish and Wildlife for the easement deed is “working through the
process,” Meister said, and is not considered a problem.
said that design-build projects, like the planned Bonner project, are
routinely started before every permit is in hand, and the sole reason
that bridge construction has not begun at Oregon Inlet is because the
lawsuit stayed the CAMA permit.
The new bridge will not face
the same environmental challenges, the governor said, because it is
designed with much longer spans and fewer and deeper pilings.
acknowledging the difficulty the closure has presented for Dare and
Hyde county residents, McCrory said that the bridge will not be
reopened until he can be assured that it is safe. And he also
does not intend to subject the engineers and divers to unduly hazardous
conditions created by strong currents or storms.
a dangerous operation to fix this bridge,” McCrory said. “This is an
engineering challenge, an environmental challenge, dealing with the
elements. There’s going to be some short-term pain here.”
of the pain, he added, is also to state coffers, which tapped into
emergency funds to pay for the extra manpower for ferry operations and
“This is costing the taxpayers in all of North Carolina because of this delay,” he said.
It is not yet known how long the bridge may have to stay closed, DOT officials said.
DOT will take additional scans and inspections of the scoured area
after the dredging operation is completed. At that point, the
department will be able to determine what steps are necessary to get
the bridge reopened.
officials plan community meeting on Hatteras on bridge closure
officials address Bonner safety concerns at press conference in
chaos, and outrage reign as DOT suddenly decides to close Bonner
has closed Bonner Bridge because of safety concerns