The joint press release issued by NCDOT and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) letting everyone know they were working on a compromise that will allow the Bonner Bridge replacement to go forward caught everyone by surprise.
The two organizations have been fighting it out in court for the past three years with no end in sight and in a lot of ways for all that time, energy and money they were right back where they started from.
Although they weren’t quite back where they started from. Here’s the non lawyer read on what motivated this.
When the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals decided the case, they ruled that on the one hand, NCDOT had fulfilled the provisions of the law in issuing their Environmental Impact Statement. However, they agreed with the SELC that the state had improperly applied a part of the law pertaining to the original intent and plans for a road through Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge when it was created in 1937.
The ruling for the SELC stopped the project dead in its tracks. The problem for the SELC is that it will not stop the project permanently in its tracks. NCDOT will find a way to comply . . . it’s just a matter of time.
The much bigger issue really is the Environmental Impact Statement and in ruling for the state, the court guaranteed that at some point the project will go forward.
However, from NCDOT’s standpoint the sooner this project get moving the better; construction costs are rising and repairs to the old Bonner Bridge are becoming more expensive, time consuming and difficult.
So—no one know exactly what they’re negotiating, but it seems clear why they’re talking.