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Dredging complete along Outer Banks

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NAGS HEAD, N.C. - Dredging is complete along the Outer Banks.

Crews pumped in around five million gallons of sand in the Oregon Inlet at the piling that forced the bridge to shut down about a week ago. They'll check back Wednesday to see if the sand made a significant difference.
    
But there are new problems, namely the weather, for people living on Hatteras Island. All they have are ferries now and heavy fog has certainly plagued them.

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Over 9,000 people signed a petition asking the Southern Environmental Law Center to drop their suit against the state of North Carolina.

On Friday, the Governor called out the organization for blocking the construction of a new bridge. The state proposed building a new one adjacent to the current one.

But in a letter sent to the Governor by the organization, they say, "The purpose of the Bonner Bridge project from the outset has been to replace the aging bridge and to provide a dependable transportation route to Rodanthe and the remainder of Hatteras Island. As you are well aware, Highway 12 through Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge has been subject to frequent overwash, new inlets, closures, and constant maintenance. The current “plan” for Highway 12 south of the bridge is no plan, but to remain at the mercy of the ocean and storms, endure closures, and attempt to respond in some undetermined ways."

Meanwhile, dredging on the Oregon Inlet started Saturday morning. The Dredge Alaska is supposed to mitigate the issue by dredge the Oregon Inlet and then dropping the sand underneath the bridge.

You can find the petition and complete statement here.
 
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Friday morning, Governor Pat McCrory played the blame game, pointing fingers for the emergency closure of the Bonner Bridge.

He personally surveyed the aging structure.

The two words “Road Closed” mean a lot more than you can imagine. It's less tourism, more insecurity and deeper troubles.

"We have got to get this bridge open," said Governor Pat McCrory.

In a news conference, he asked environmentalist to get out of the way. McCrory blames the Southern Environmental Law Center for holding up construction of a new bridge. The group filed a lawsuit more than 2 years ago, saying construction of a new bridge is an unreliable plan and ongoing construction would only do more harm to the environment.

"The Bonner Bridge was a 30 year bridge,” said McCrory. “It's now in its 50th year."

This week, unnecessary stress on the bridge's pilings caused Department of Transportation officials to shut it down.

On Thursday, they brought in a super vessel to mitigate the problem. The plan is to dredge the Oregon Inlet and then drop the sand underneath the bridge.

But even then, experts are still unsure whether the work valued at 1.6 million dollars will last.

"We have been held under the gun by environmental issues who are really sponsored by organizations that don't seem to really care about the environment," said Mattie Lawson, resident. “"I'm just so frustrated."

Lawmakers and residents all rallied behind the governor. They say they are launching a campaign to get the Southern Environmental Law Center to drop their suit.

"The longer this lawsuit goes on, the longer it takes money away from bridges and roads and education. It all comes out of the same pot," said McCrory.

There’s no word yet on when the signs will come down. NCDOT officials say they are working with contractors to develop a timeframe as to when repairs will be completed. In the meantime, you have to take a ferry to get on the island.

The ferry division of NCDOT says they're setting up addition runs on its Stumpy Point/Rodanthe and Swan Quarter/Ocracoke routes to increase access to Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands.

The ferry division is adding departures from Stumpy Point at 11 p.m. and 3:30 a.m., and from Rodanthe at midnight and 1:30 a.m.

Fuel supply trucks will have designated runs on Tuesdays and Fridays from Stumpy Point and from Rodanthe to allow more deck space for regular vehicles on other runs.

The ferry division has also decided to amend its regular Pamlico Sound schedule. It's adding another round trip to its Swan Quarter/Ocracoke route beginning next Tuesday with an additional departure from Ocracoke at 7 p.m. and from Swan Quarter at 10 p.m.

The Southern Environmental Law Center wasn't present at McCrory's press conference. They did respond to the governor by saying, “We find it disingenuous and irresponsible that he has chosen aggressively, publically, and inaccurately to blame environmentalists for this bridge closure."

They say they've been working toward a solution to this problem since 2003.
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