Teetering buildings at new inlet slated for demo

By on February 5, 2012

A house next to the bridge is near collapse. (Sam Walker)

A 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.

Erosion on the the inlet's south side also threatens the temporary bridge, which is being shored up. (Sam Walker )

“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 area is closed for safety reasons. (Sam Walker)

“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.”


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February 10, 2012 3:24 pm

If there was a Piping Plover nest near that building it might be a priority for them.

Should have just filled that ditch up with sand when they had the chance !

John Snider

February 8, 2012 10:06 pm

Perhaps the Plovers will come clean it up–or the money from the new off road tax on middle income hard working tourist and residents—to ensure that the ever shifting sands are not damaged–and to give the NPS more reasons to simply screw with people on the beach in one of the few wild but not out of reach places on the east coast!

Mark Williamson

February 8, 2012 6:18 am

You people need to get a grip, a house falling in the water in Dare Co. is a common occurance, not an environmental tragedy!

OBX Resident

February 7, 2012 2:42 pm


You have got to be kidding me. Government like business needs to be made more efficient. Think about how much money has been spent by the government over the past 30 years studying the solution to Oregon Inlet (jetties, dredging, etc), the bridge (short versus long, etc). At some point the studies become waste. Our country has become overburdened with environmental regs (that fail to achieve their goals) and bureacracy that makes a a max $30,000 job to tear down a few buildings a difficult job that will be delayed and very, very expensive. Bigger government is not the solution, efficiency is the solution.


February 7, 2012 12:51 pm

I have asked myself your question as instructed, Alexy, and I find that I don’t know the answer. I doubt if anyone knows the answer to a hypothetical question like that.


February 7, 2012 8:51 am

Ask yourself this… If these buildings (abandonded before the hurricane) had been removed in a timely manner and the same dunes that were in place above and below them would the island of been breached and RT12 closed? costing over 10 million just for the bridge not counting lost jobs and other losses?


February 7, 2012 7:07 am

Elections have consequences: there’s no money for this sort of emergency job because the Interior Dept. has been starved for funds in round after round of congressional budget-cutting. You want the services? Then elect people who don’t see “the government” as a beast that must be starved.


February 6, 2012 6:31 pm

ignore the asbestos red herring… A red herring is a figurative expression in which a clue or piece of information is or is intended to be misleading, or distracting from the actual question…. the actual question is, why did/is the fws allowing easily removed garbage to fall into the water?


February 6, 2012 9:11 am

The buildings are unsafe to remove this evil asbestos but instead they sit and watch everything swept into the seas and spread across the sand?

Native son

February 6, 2012 6:09 am

Sad to see these landmarks go,but the ocean has it’s own timetable and we better march to it.


February 5, 2012 11:21 pm

Amazing…NCDOT told FWS to stuff it about getting the building off the perch…I’ve been waiting for this issue to come up. As much as FWS cares about the environment, they can shut down the beach, yet let asbestos hurt those poor birds and fish by having their building fall into the open ocean..been there since Irene, 3 months later erosion caused it to partially fall into the ocean. Now they can’t fix it, even though there’s three excavators sitting on site who could make three passes and scoop it up in one fell swoop. Retarded government.

Dazed and Confused

February 5, 2012 6:13 pm

They should ask Audubon and it’s friends to help out with financing. They have enough to pay for it. Tax payers shouldn’t have to cover that mess.


February 5, 2012 4:29 pm

no all hazardous materials were not removed. yes hazardous materials have fallen in. paint cans, oil cans, bags of garbage, chainsaw gasoline can……all of those items were clearly visable from the highway on racks and on the floor of that garage. how many months has it been since irene? they can spin this as much as they want but the truth is obvious . they have had plenty of time to do the right thing for our envrionment and chose not to. shameful.

OBX Resident

February 5, 2012 12:34 pm

This article only highlights how disfunctional the management of our resources has become. By the time that the bids have been received evaulated, checked for minority involvement, request for clarifications issued, verify funding, conducted an onsite meeting, execute the contract, etc…nature will have already demolished these buildings.

It is amazing that special interest groups such as the NC Coastal Federation are not complaining about these issues. USFW Staff could remove windows, doors, HVAC units, decks, etc to minimize the litter on our beaches.

Remember, they have not even procured “adequate funding.”

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