Gov. McCrory gets first hand look at Bonner Bridge

By on December 6, 2013


Video from bridge visit and press conference. (Autumn Chandler)

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory stood atop the Bonner Bridge on Friday to survey the situation that led to the closing of the bridge earlier this week, and then called on residents to increase pressure on environmental groups that have blocked a replacement span over Oregon Inlet.

“Tell these groups to get of our way and do what’s good for the public interest of North Carolina and the safety of our citizens,” McCrory said to a gathering inside the ships store at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center.

The first term Republican said he will join more then 7,000 people who have signed an online petition calling on the Southern Environmental Law Center to drop their lawsuit blocking construction of a replacement bridge.

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McCrory said some members of the boards of both Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association did not know their groups were parties to the lawsuit that a federal judge dismissed in September.

State Secretary of Revenue Lyons Gray, appointed by McCrory after his election in Nov. 2012, is a member of the board of directors of Defenders of Wildlife.

“He was not aware they were a plaintiff and he is going to try to get them to change their mind,” McCrory said. “If he can’t, he will resign from that board.”

McCrory said he has also made personal contact with a former member of the State Board of Transportation that also serves on the board of directors of one of the groups represented by the SELC.

The governor said he would be sending a letter to each of the groups’ board members, co-signed by state transportation Sec. Tony Tata, asking they tell the SELC to withdraw their appeal of U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan’s ruling.

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“(The) lawsuits are standing in the way of progress for people, the environment, and the economy of Hatteras Island and eastern North Carolina, and it is impacting the safety of citizens as we speak,” McCrory said when referencing the contents of the letter.

McCrory added he would follow up the letter with personal phone calls to leaders of the SELC that live in North Carolina.

“I think what this group is doing is hurting the credibility of other environmental groups and other serious environmental issues in the state,” McCrory said. “This is a pseudo-environmental diversion.”

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“The Southern Environmental Law Center has a gun to our head, and it’s loaded…I resent what they are doing to us,” said Warren Judge, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners.

“There’s been a change in public opinion in the last couple of days … this week has been a wake up call,” Judge said, referencing a shift by one publication’s editorial board to support building the NCDOT’s proposed parallel bridge

“This is not an issue about the environment, this is one group deciding to hold up our government and the people of Hatteras and the people of Ocracoke,” said state Rep. Paul Tine.

“You might have to take a ferry ride, but businesses on Hatteras are still open … this is a chance to come down and support these people in their moment of crisis,” said state Sen. Bill Cook.

McCrory said the state would look at bringing economic relief to businesses and residents of the islands that have been impacted by the bridge closing.

He also praised the efforts of Great Lakes Dredging Company, which was slated to being pumping sand Friday afternoon from the navigation channel to the pilings that are covered with less than 13 feet of sand for support.

McCrory said the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were to be commended for making sure the permitting process moved quickly, so both the sand pumping operations and a project to further shore up the pilings could begin as quickly as possible.

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