Guest Column: Correcting some errors
in statements by SELC on Bonner Bridge
By JIM TROGDON
to correct some errors in statements made since the Bonner Bridge
closure, particularly by plaintiffs’ counsel on this issue, that
occasionally are reported as fact.
this case, plaintiffs’ counsel is the Southern Environmental Law
Center, which represents Defenders of Wildlife and the National
Wildlife Refuge Association.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation and previous governors
have never selected the long bridge as a preferred alternative.
In 2003 the long bridge was agreed to be studied in detail, based on
misinformation by SELC and others, which was later proved erroneous by
the U.S. Secretary of Interior and an Assistant Secretary of
that time SELC stated, and still does today, that improvements within
the existing right-of-way could not be eligible for permits and would
not receive a compatibility determination by U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service. These statements ultimately drove the need to study the
long bridge and were later determined to be absolutely and
irresponsibly false. Former Secretary of DOI Kempthorne and his
Assistant Secretary Manscen both invalidated that position and these
statements by SELC.
Long bridge as a viable option. The long bridge will never be
built in North Carolina for multiple reasons. It would be the
most expensive single bridge built in the U.S. to date and second
longest bridge on the earth. North Carolina could never afford it in
any reasonable scenario, because there is an option using the existing
right-of-way. Also, building the long bridge would have substantially
greater environmental impacts and be in violation of section 404 b (1)
of the Clean Water Act. It’s ironic that environmental plaintiffs
support an alternative that violates CWA.
The current plan was proposed by EPA and is the only plan that has
obtained concurrence by federal and state regulatory agencies and the
community. The current plan does not leave Hatteras transportation more
exposed than the long bridge, since it bridges over erosion and
high-risk areas and maintains connections to areas not impacted by
erosion through the next 50 years.
It is required by NEPA for agencies to use the best data available and
publicly present a transparent analysis of all issues and select an
alternative through that transparent process. This has been
done. The plaintiffs’ comments were received publicly and
addressed in detail.
does not require special interest groups to argue for or against a
project in a responsible or factual manner. If it did, SELC would
be supportive of the current project, but their arguments to date lack
fact, reasonableness, and responsibility, not just as they relate to
the citizens of Dare County, but also as they relate to the environment.
plaintiffs’ objective is truly to return the state right-of-way to
USFWS without compensation (inverse condemnation) and to initially
limit, then prohibit, access to Hatteras Island to the greatest extent
Never has so few cost so many so much for so long!
Trogdon has recently retired as chief operating officer for the North
Carolina Department of Transportation, where he oversaw, among other
things, the Bonner Bridge Replacement project. He has been the Director
of Strategic and Transportation Planning for the state Senate and House
of Representatives, where he assisted and evaluated the Bonner Bridge
Project. He came to that position in 2005 after 23 years in highway
engineering. Fifteen of those years were with the North Carolina
Department of Transportation, where he was Division Engineer for the
Fourth Highway Division (Johnston, Wayne, Wilson, Nash, Edgecombe, and
Halifax counties). He has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in civil
engineering from North Carolina State University and a master’s in
strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College. )
To read another of Jim Trogdon’s columns on the Bonner Bridge replacement, go to his 2007 guest column at http://www.islandfreepress.org/Archives/2007.11.15-GuestColumnOptionForReplacingTheBridge.html.