July 24, 2014
Pea Island Refuge is a hub of
Highway 12 activity this summer
By IRENE NOLAN
Summer has always been an extremely active time for Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Nesting shorebirds scrape their shallow nests in the sand. Sea turtles lumber ashore at night and dig nesting holes.
thousands of visitors enjoy the natural-appearing beach and North Pond
Wildlife Trail. They come to fish, observe wildlife, paddle, or
simply to walk on a beautiful and peaceful beach in the sunshine.
This summer has all this wildlife and visitor activity -- and much more.
an effort to facilitate safe access for points south of Pea Island, the
refuge has issued a number of permits to facilitate repair work and
protection of Highway 12, the only road to Hatteras Island's southern
villages and to catch the ferry to Ocracoke. Many federal and state
agencies are working together to accomplish the needed work while
maintaining the protection for wildlife that is required by law.
Currently, there is major construction activity on the north, middle, and south sections of the refuge.
the north end, the refuge has granted permission for dredge crews to
park their vehicles to work their shifts for the 24-hour dredging
operation. A 3- to 4-mile section in the center of the refuge is
busy with N.C. Department of Transportation and contractor crews
replacing the temporary bridge over the inlet opened by Hurricane
Irene. And, the southernmost few miles of the refuge are active
with the NC DOT and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sand-dredging project
to protect the highway at the S-curves.
Refuge Manager Mike Bryant asks for patience and cooperation, if you are driving on Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.
staff, especially our biologist Dennis Stewart, have worked tirelessly
and consistently with the NCDOT and their contractors to make this work
possible while making sure the wildlife and habitat we have been
charged to protect and manage are safe," he says. "By working together,
we have been able to come up with plans that can accomplish the work
while avoiding unacceptable impacts on these wildlife resources.
turtle nests will be hatching soon and beach nesting birds are learning
to fly," he continues. "Monitoring the areas for wildlife activity and
avoiding certain types of lighting and equipment will provide the
protection needed. This work is being done during active bird and sea
turtle nesting and hatching. I'm proud the US Fish and Wildlife
Service and the NCDOT have been able to plan ahead to get this needed
"The refuge permit was issued last
November which clearly spelled out safe parameters for wildlife.
This careful planning allows NCDOT to do their job while we
continue to do our work of protecting and managing wildlife and
providing for public use on the refuge."
Benjamin, field supervisor for the Ecological Services Office in
Raleigh, also reminds the public that emergency beach nourishment
activities associated with protection of Highway 12
may affect public access to the areas being nourished for a number
"The Service has coordinated closely with NC
DOT and Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that appropriate measures
have been incorporated into the project design to minimize potential
impacts to wildlife resources," Benjamin says. "The Service issued a
Biological Opinion under the Endangered Species Act on April 1, 2014
that included all the necessary measures to protect federally listed
species such as sea turtles and piping plovers. Though this
activity will be occurring in the heart of the sea turtle and shorebird
nesting seasons, we believe the commitment by NCDOT and the Corps to
adhere to the protective measures we collectively developed will ensure
that harm to the wildlife will be minimized to the extent possible."
adds, "We appreciate the cooperation of the NC DOT and U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers in minimizing impacts to fish and wildlife and
are hopeful that the project will progress quickly so that more normal
refuge operations and uses can resume. We will post specific
changes to refuge use and visitation policies as needed."
some sections of Highway 12 through the refuge have one-lane traffic,
so visitors and residents are advised to plan ahead for stop-and-go
traffic and delays. Much of the highway through the refuge has
heavy equipment coming and going, so motorists should drive with
For information on refuge activities, visit www.fws.gov/peaisland or call 252-473-1131.
article was provided by Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and written
by Bonnie Strawser, the refuge's visitor services manager.)