The dispute over the Bonner Bridge project is heading back to the district court, after a unanimous panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held today that the lower court had failed to consider certain requirements relating to the protection of wildlife refuge land — here, the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on Hatteras Island, through which the battered NC- 12 runs.
The state had agreed in 2003 to build the the Pamlico Sound Alternative – a 17-mile causeway bridge that would bypass NC-12 in the troubled areas, spanning instead from Bodie Island, out into the Pamlico Sound and connecting back at Rodanthe. Construction was set to begin in 2006, with the new bridge opening in 2010.
But the NCDOT shifted course in 2009 and agreed to build a parallel bridge instead, leaving improvements to NC-12 in the troubled areas to then undefined “later phases.”
The Department has since proposed the construction of two additional bridges in the shifting sands of the Refuge to overcome storm wash-out on NC-12.
In the ruling, written by U.S. Circuit Judge James A. Wynn Jr., the judges did find though that the state had complied with provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act when evaluating multiple proposals that included the building of the single replacement bridge and the planning of future bridges along NC -12.
A full analysis of the decision will follow.
Read more about the case here.