Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Controversy I

Several years ago, we had a moment of madness in which we thought it would be cool to buy a house in Rodanthe instead of renting one every summer. One of the soundfront houses was for sale, and we talked to a real estate agent about it, and about property here in general. Then we went home, Hurricane Isabel punched a new inlet in the lower part of the island, and we came to our senses.

In this process, the agent told us that the issue with property on our end of Rodanthe is that when NCDOT replaces the Bonner bridge, the new bridge will probably hit the island right about here. Instead of looking at the uninterrupted view of the sound, we'll be looking at U.S. 12.

It seems nuts, on the face of it, to build a 23-mile-long bridge, but the real trouble with U.S. 12 is not just the Bonner bridge. Oh, the bridge is bad -- it's got a horrible rating because it's old and decrepit, and the pilings contribute to the silting-up of Oregon Inlet. But the real trouble is overwash on the rest of the road. It costs NCDOT well over a million dollars every summer to keep the sand ploughed off of U.S. 12 between the bridge and Rodanthe. When you're driving up to Nags Head, you can see all the overwash places.

Overwash, of course, is what keeps the banks alive. It nourishes the sound, replenishes the beaches, and generally is a good thing. It also leaves several feet of sand in the road after every major storm. NCDOT wants to close U.S. 12 up in the national wildlife refuge and just maintain a long bridge. The locals, though, want access to all of the Pea Island beaches and fishing spots to stay open, and not just to people with four-wheel-drive vehicles. A lot of tourism depends on people having access to the remote beaches.

It's a tough call. I would hate to imagine that we're going to be looking at a long bridge in the sunset, but I would also hate to have New Inlet break open again and leave everybody stranded. I included the map, as a point of interest, so you can see just how huge the project is. The lines on the far left of the wetland designation are the proposed bridge lines. Hmmmmm.

The rental packet included an informal ballot to allow summer people to weigh in on the bridge's terminus. Two plans have already been rejected -- one that would just replace the current bridge and one that would come in at New Inlet. The first doesn't solve the overwash problem on U.S. 12, and the second is too disruptive to wildlife.

Plans three and four come in to Rodanthe -- one just above us at the end of the wildlife refuge (acceptable) and the other just below at the fishing channel (not). Apparently the time of decision is nigh, and people are getting restive.

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