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Environmental issues may arise over Bonner Bridge impact on Pea Island

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After far too many years of what most will deem political grand standing, the Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet in the Outer Banks has been approved for replacement. The impressive span connects Hatteras Island and the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and serves as the primary gateway to the heart of the barrier island chain that outlines North Carolina.

Environmental groups have started to speak up in opposition to the proposed replacement plan because of its potential impact to the refuge during construction, which calls for a parallel bridge to be built while the original remains in use. The second bridge would best serve the region as a bypass around the refuge, opponents say. Well, sure. It just costs $1 billion instead of $300 million. So there’s that.

I can understand the doubt some groups have that the mirroring bridge will remain within the current right of way but Pea Island already benefits from very little tourist visitation outside those cruising by on Highway 12, as it’s access points are already naturally limited. Most tourists blow right by the sign in a beeline for their rental home down 12 into Rodanthe. Same with the surfers. In other words, it’s not like the new bridge is going to turn Pea Island into Disney Land. Additionally, to what extent would the alternative solution allow access to Pea Island for those who do choose to visit it?

I remain mixed on that portion of the debate. I think more needs to come to light before any real stand can be taken. Let’s get some plans in the books first.

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