By Sam Walker on February 5, 2012A pair of buildings in danger of falling into the breach of Pea Island caused by Hurricane Irene were slated for removal prior to the storm in August, and will be torn down in the near future, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A third building that was part of the former headquarters of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge was destroyed when sound waters rushed across the island and formed the inlet.
A second building next to a temporary bridge carrying N.C. 12 over the inlet has been undermined by the water, and is in danger of collapse.
The shoreline of the breach is creeping closer to a third building closest to the ocean.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service suspended a planned demolition contract for the buildings when Hurricane Irene changed the site so dramatically,” said Bonnie Strawser, spokesperson for the refuge.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service is getting new bids for the demolition based on the current every-changing site conditions,” Strawser said. “When bids are received, if there is adequate funding, an emergency contract will be awarded to remove the buildings and asphalt pavement.”
Both Strawser and NC Department Of Transportation spokesperson Dara Demi said the DOT has not requested the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the damaged buildings, despite any perceived threat to the temporary bridge.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service asked the NCDOT to help remove one of the buildings that has since collapsed, but NCDOT wasn’t able to work it into their very busy schedule when they were constructing the temporary bridge to get NC Hwy 12 reopened,” Strawser said.
Demi said that with the equipment on site currently at the bridge, which the NCDOT is using to shore up the southern approach of the bridge with rock and sheet piling, the NCDOT would be willing to assist with tearing down the damaged building if asked.
“All hazardous materials that were stored in the area were removed before the buildings collapsed,” Strawser said.
“However, when we had the buildings inspected for asbestos, in preparation for establishing a contract to demolish the buildings, the residence was determined to have small quantities of asbestos,” said Strawser.
“Federal law requires that the asbestos be removed in a prescribed manner before the buildings can be demolished,” Strawser said. “Asbestos removal requires persons to enter and work in the building, which is unsafe at this point.”“The Fish and Wildlife Service has requested bids for the asbestos removal along with the demolition bid request,” Strawser said. “Like NCDOT, the Fish and Wildlife Service has made the appropriate agencies aware of the emergency response.”
“Once we have an estimate in hand for the removal of the facilities and can verify funding, we hope to be able to get expedited processing on the contract,” Strawser said.
Originally, N.C. 12 passed to the east of the former refuge headquarters. But rapid ocean erosion at the site forced the NCDOT in the early 1990s to move the roadway to the west side of the site six miles north of Rodanthe.
Due to the danger of the site overall, the southern shoreline of the breach is closed to all access on both the east and west sides of N.C. 12.
“Signs notify people of the closed area and it is patrolled by law enforcement and the closed area is enforced – public safety is paramount,” Strawser said. “The ever-changing nature of the area makes it challenging to manage.”