Regarding numerous stories and letters about the Bonner Bridge situation, I’d like to correct a few misstatements:
The N.C. Department of Transportation and previous governors have never selected a long bridge as a preferred alternative. In 2003, the state agreed to study the long bridge in detail based on information by the Southern Environmental Law Center and others that was later proved erroneous by the U.S. secretary of Interior and an assistant secretary of Interior. At 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.
The long bridge will never be built in North Carolina for multiple reasons. In addition to being the most expensive U.S. single bridge to date if it were built – and the second-longest bridge on earth – the state could never afford it in any reasonable scenario because there is an option on the existing right of way. Building the long bridge would have substantially greater environmental effects 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 the Clean Water Act.
The current plan for a parallel bridge was proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency 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 because it bridges over erosion and high-risk areas and maintains connections to areas not affected by erosion through the next 50 years.
The National Environmental Protection Act requires 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. NEPA does not require special interest groups to argue for or against a project in a responsible or factual manner. The group’s arguments to date lack fact, reasonableness and responsibility, not just as it relates to the residents of Dare County but also as it relates to the environment. The group’s objective is truly to return the state right of way to USFWS without compensation (inverse condemnation) and initially to limit, then prohibit, access to Hatteras Island to the greatest extent possible.
Former chief operating officer, NCDOT
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the issue.