Appeals Court grants request for mediation
By IRENE NOLAN
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit today granted a request by
all of the parties involved in the legal wrangling over replacing the
Herbert C. Bonner Bridge for the assistance of a mediator in their
effort to negotiate a settlement in the case.
A joint motion by
the parties asking for referral to the Appeals Court's Mediation
Program was filed on Monday, Feb. 9. The plaintiffs, defendants, and
defendant-intervenor said that the parties in the case have made
"substantial progress toward settlement" but feel that the assistance
of a mediator "will be helpful, perhaps essential" in resolving the
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in 2011
by the Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of its clients,
Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association,
against the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the
Federal Highway Association.
The lawsuit challenges NCDOT's plan
to replace the Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet with a parallel span and
to address the issues of "hotspots" on Highway 12 through the Pea
Island National Wildlife Refuge with a phased approach.
Hatteras Electric Cooperative was allowed to join as a
defendant-intervenor because the environmental groups’ preferred
alternative – a 17.5 bridge that bypasses Pea Island – would
require prohibitively expensive transmission lines under the bridge.
2013, U.S. District Court Judge Louise Flanagan ruled in favor of the
state and federal defendants, and SELC appealed her decision to the
Fourth Circuit. On Aug. 6, the Court of Appeals affirmed part of
Flanagan's decision but denied another part and remanded the case back
to the lower court.
In September, the parties announced that they were trying to negotiate a settlement.
Fourth Circuit's order granting the motion for mediation also granted
the parties' request that the time to ask for the Appeals Court for a
rehearing of the case be extended until mediation has concluded.
mediation is confidential and no details on the progress will be
available to the public. There is also no timetable for the