Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Contractor Earmarked for Currituck Bridge

Here is a quality article found in the TollRoads News by one of the blog readers, Tony, highlighting who is pegged for the bridge when/if we go to construction. Thank you Tony.

ACS selected for Mid Currituck Bridge NC
Posted Fri, 2008-12-19 20:52
ACS Mid Currituck Bridge north carolina turnpike authority
A group led by ACS Infrastructure has been scored highest by staff of North Carolina Turnpike Authority in an assessment of private sector proposals for a possible concession to develop the Mid-Currituck toll bridge in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. ACS is teamed with Dragados, Lochner-MMM lead engineers and environmental, Arup traffic & revenue and Planning Communities public outreach. The project still has to be developed to gain local acceptance and get through environmental permitting with alternative concepts to be studied and compared. And it has to be demonstrated during this first phase that the bridge project is financially viable for it to move on to a toll concession.

Dragados is named as lead contractor with Traylor and Weeks Marine doing bridgeworks, but that is obviously a while off.

ACS beat out groups led by Skanska, Hochtief and Bechtel in the staff scoring.

Reuters carried a report from Madrid Spain where ACS is headquartered that ACS has "won the contract" for the project. North Carolina Turnpike Authority confirm that ACS is the top scorer and that ACS will be first in line in negotiations for a contract. But there is no contract yet.

The intitial contract will be for project development work to get the project to the stage when it can be designed, financed and built. This is being called a Predevelopment Agreement (PDA) and Steve DeWitt of North Carolina Turnpike says they hope to have this detailed and signed by the end of February.

The project development work will be shared between ACS and the turnpike authority and will provide that ACS will have first choice to negotiate a toll concession if the project proves viable. DeWitt of NCTA says the project development work should be complete by mid-2010.

At issue is improving mobility between the mainland and the barrier islands immediately south of the Virginia border on the Atlantic coast - often referred to as the Northern Beaches of the Outer Banks - an area of weekender and vacation houses, and motels with both ocean frontage and the sheltered waters of the sound.

One road alternative is improving the existing route mostly on the approach roads on either side of to the existing US158 bridge which is at the southern end of Currituck Sound. The existing Wright Memorial Bridge lands not far from Kitty Hawk, famous for the world's first airplane flight of the Wright brothers a hundred years ago.

Best site for a mid-sound bridge called Mid Currituck Bridge is about 28km (17 miles) to the north of the existing bridge nearer where US185, the main road from I-95 approaches the Sound providing a more direct crossing to many of the northern barrier island communities. That bridge would be about 11km (7 miles) total and about 8km (5 miles) over water landing south of Corolla.

A NCTA presentation earlier this year puts the cost of a 2-lane bridge at $385m. A 4-lane bridge will be looked at too. It would allow higher speed travel and about 3 to 4 minutes time savings. The bridge's capital cost would be perhaps $150m extra, and seems unlikely to be warranted.

Possible improvements to approach roads on either side of a mid-sound bridge range between about $100m and $600m depending on their length and scope. Costs of improving the approach roads are higher for the existing bridge because the roads to be improved are longer, but the bridge cost is avoided.

Total capital costs are not very different.

If there's no new bridge there's no toll concession, Steve DeWitt says. Only a new bridge would be tolled. The Wright Bridge at the south end of the Sound is tax-supported.

Similar project development agreements with a right of first refusal to negotiate a subsequent concession have been done in Texas.




ACS Group

ACS Group or in spanish Grupo ACS is related through a 26% ownership to Abertis and to Hochtief through a 30% ownership. It had sales of about $30b (E21b) in 2007 and profit of $2.2b (E1.6b) and 19k employees with work in many countries. It has about 40 concessions in process.

Its share price at around E31 is about 25% off its high in the past year.


SEMANTICS: the "Pre" in Predevelopment Agreement seems misleading since it is an agreement to develop before you go to a detailed concession and design, financing and construction, which makes it a Pre-concession Agreement or a Development Agreement.

TOLLROADSnews 2008-12-19

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ocean-Carova Corp gets approval for subdivision in 4WD area of Outer Banks.

As has been reported here in previous posts, the proposed reconfiguration of the 19 los into 29 residential lots was approved by County Commissioners at the Dec 15th, 2008 meeting. I have included a link of the minutes below for those interested. There are still some hurdles to overcome with various agencies, but getting past the county was a major step. These parcels will be 2.5+ acres a piece if all goes through. I might even put my name on one....Here's the details.

County to try Dredging Whalehead Club basin....again

The County has hired the director of the agency that denied the dredging the last time. I guess if all else fails, hire the guy who knows how to get it through the system. Seems like his moral compass just did a 180, but what do I know about it? Here's the article from th VA pilot:

By Jeff Hampton
The Virginian-Pilot
© December 21, 2008
A former director of a state environmental agency that has opposed dredging the Currituck Sound could help Currituck County get permission to dig a boat route to The Whalehead Club.

Charles Jones, former director of the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management, has already met with local officials and is expected to work as a consultant in the county's third attempt to get a permit to dredge a channel to The Whalehead Club boat basin.

Jones retired from the agency last year and has become a private consultant.

Plans are to allow public access to the basin, created decades ago when hunters moored their rigs there. Several of Currituck's preserved historic boats could be docked there for viewing by the more than 10,000 annual visitors to The Whalehead Club.

But the way from deeper water to the boat basin has filled in over the years. Propellers from even small boats strike the bottom trying to pass through. The old channel needs to be dug out to about 4 feet, said Horace Bell, chairman of The Whalehead Preservation Trust.

State and federal environmental agencies, including the Division of Coastal Management, have opposed dredging in the Currituck Sound, saying it would disturb sub-aquatic vegetation and damage fish-breeding habitat.

Jones' expertise can help with the latest permitting, Bell said.

"We want to put some horsepower behind it this time," he said. "All we're interested in is the historic channel."

Old maps, Whalehead Club records, photographs and local stories provide evidence that a channel led to the boat basin at The Whalehead Club at least since Pennsylvania businessman Edward Knight built the lodge in the 1920s.

In 1996, Currituck County applied for a permit to dredge a channel to the Whalehead boat basin 2,250 feet long, 55 feet wide and 6 feet deep. The county gave up on the permit after a year of objections from environmental agencies.

Four years later, the county hired Environmental Professionals Inc. of Kill Devil Hills to apply again. This time, the channel proposal was reduced to 1,900 feet long, 50 feet wide and 5 feet deep.

The state, backed by several federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, denied the permit in a letter dated Sept. 13, 2000.

In May 2004, ferry employees were reported for prop washing not far from the Whalehead boat basin. The ferry division planned to build a docking area for a passenger ferry to carry students from Corolla to the mainland. The employees were found guilty of charges related to illegal disturbance of the sound bottom.

State and federal environmental agencies forced the ferry division to refill the dredged area.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Another option for high speed internet in 4WD area of Outer Banks

Internet Service providers (ISP's) and their reliability has been a very difficult thing in the remote beaches of the Northern Outer Banks. One could make the case that you don't need any internet in such an area, which I actually agree with, but if only to keep current with my semi-famous blog.....

Embarq now offers ISDN service in the 4x4 area. Internet, free VOIP, security systems and video can now be used in the off-road area. Embarq supplies a free modem for a plug-in installation. Bundling a number of services together will save you a few bucks overall. Just remember, their tech support is not local which if you rent your house can be frustrating to your guests. Just tell them that the best surfing on the Outer Banks involves a board and wax.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

NC creating another agency to manage the Coast

I don't know folks, depends if you are a half-empty or a half-full type of person. I like the intent and the mission statement of the Beach & Inlet Management Plan, but I could say that about a lot of agencies I deal with on the Outer Banks that seem to encourage red tape too. I am excited to see one particular statement in the article below from the VA pilot, I have highlighted it.

By Catherine Kozak
The Virginian-Pilot
© December 12, 2008
Considering the web of federal, state, county and municipal plans and studies that already exist, it may seem that the last thing North Carolina needs is another bureaucracy to manage its coast.

Even the acronym for the state's first Beach and Inlet Management Plan - BIMP - seems to lack the gravitas of its stated mission: development of a comprehensive regional strategy for management of 326 miles of barrier islands and 19 tidal inlets.

Rather than adding to bureaucratic bloat, the plan is intended to streamline planning, speed permitting, improve coordination, promote pooling of resources and create a clearinghouse for coastal data on beaches and inlets, all on a regional scale.

It will assess ongoing activities, provide the framework for additional work and ultimately develop a long-term approach to sustain the coast.

"What we really want to do with this effort is take what we've learned in the last 30 to 35 years and figure out what to do in the next 30 to 40 years," Steve Underwood, assistant director of the Division of Coastal Management, said at a public meeting on Thursday.

In a later interview, Underwood said the plan may sound overly ambitious, but the goal is to stay ahead of the curve with looming climate change challenges facing the state. Also, conditions in the southern and northern regions of the coast are not the same and should not be managed the same.
Four regions and numerous subregions have been established. Management strategies will be developed for each region, incorporating ecological, economic and sociopolitical factors that could affect inlet and beach management.

"I would argue that we are right out in front in making that approach to coastal management," he said. "I think people are going to have to look at a different way of doing things."

As it stands now, Underwood said, there is no comprehensive plan that prioritizes projects, no long-term funding plan, no sea-level rise plan, no centralized repository for masses of data.

"We also pursue coastal projects on a case-by-case, project-by-project basis without considering the regional implications of those projects on the system as a whole," he said in an e-mail. "This approach leads to a more reactive way of dealing with coastal management issues versus a more proactive approach."

Part of the early impetus for establishing the beach and inlet plan, Underwood said, was frustration with coordinating sediment management projects with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Various factors - cost, sand travel, shoaling - have contributed to loss of sediment in the coastal system, an undesirable consequence when beaches are eroding and sand sources for replenishment are few.

More recently, the Corps and Coastal Management have been working closely together in study and funding of sediment resources, he said.

Coastal Management and the state Division of Water Resources partnered to develop the initial beach and inlet management plan, which was recommended in the state Coastal Habitat Protection Plan in 2004 and mandated by legislation passed in 2000 by the General Assembly.

So far, $1 million has been appropriated for the plan, although $250,000 of it is frozen in the fiscal year 2008- 09 state budget. The final report is to be presented to the legislature in April.

Public input, as well as interagency and local government cooperation, is critical to the success of the plan, Underwood said.

"No one has really come to the table for an overarching plan or an idea for bringing all these groups together," he said.

That could even translate into something as cost- and time-saving as regionwide environmental impact statements, or other management changes.

"I think we can do things a little quicker and be smoother about it because we have this information right there," he said. "There'll have to be tangible, real things."

For more information, visit: www.ncbimp.net

Catherine Kozak, (252) 441-1711, cate.kozak@pilotonline.com

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bowden gets proper send-off

While opinions have varied from time to time about his views, his level of service and dedication are unquestionable. Mr. Bowden has provided a level of effort to the community that we wish could be seen by many others. 30 years rolls of the tongue with ease, but working for the Currituck community for 10,950 days offers better perspective. First class Mr. Bowden, Thank you.

Photo and article provided from the Daily Advance:
Bowden, 84, served county 30 years
Staff Writer

Thursday, December 04, 2008

CURRITUCK — Wearing a grey western style suit with camel-colored cowboy boots, the 84-year-old outgoing Currituck Commissioner Ernie Bowden strolled through his send-off party looking a little bit country, and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.

The catered reception, held at the historic county courthouse Monday night, was held to honor Bowden’s three decades of public service to the county.

Attended by more than 30 guests, including all seven board members, County Manager Dan Scanlon, Planning Director Ben Woody, and several members of Bowden’s family, it was the first reception in Currituck history held for an outgoing commissioner.

“I was deeply humbled,” Bowden said reflecting on the party. “I cannot say how much I appreciate what the county did for me.”

After losing the primary election earlier this year, the District 1 commissioner is stepping down from office. But ask Bowden if he has plans to run for office again in 2010, and he might just say it’s a possibility.

“I don’t know if I’ll run again,” Bowden said laughing. “It depends on the circumstances I suppose, but I never say never.”

Those that know him well aren’t surprised with Bowden’s conceivable future run for office, witnessing firsthand his tireless dedication to the county.

“When (Bowden) gives his word, or a handshake on something, that’s it, he follows through,” Commissioner Gene Gregory said remembering his service with Bowden the past 15 years. “There aren’t too many people like that anymore, it will truly be a loss to the board.”

Bowden says he was first motivated to run for the Fruitville Township seat in 1976 after a long delay occurred with a governmental board and other groups who were unable to move forward with a connection route from Virginia to N.C. Highway 12 in Corolla.

The access road, Bowden says, was marketed to prospective residential buyers interested in moving to Carova Beach at that time.

Owning many acres of property in the Corova Beach area, Bowden became fundamentally involved in the first-ever residential development project in Carova Beach, managing lots, assisting with subdividing the properties, and creating right-of-ways.

“What predicated my entry into politics was when I learned this road would not become a reality, and I didn’t see anyone indicating an interest in accommodating the people who bought property there,” he said.

At the encouragement of others, Bowden began to get involved in local politics, attending commissioners meetings, chairing the Outer Banks Civil Team, and eventually running for Currituck’s Board of Commissioners in 1976.

Bowden served 12 two-year terms as county commissioner from 1976 to 1980, 1984 to 1988, and 1992 to 2008. He also served one term as board chairman in 1994.

Bowden has even been around long enough to have served with every county manager in the history of Currituck, as the county manager form of government was adopted in 1974,

Looking back on his many years in office, Bowden says he never came to a point where he wanted to exit politics.

“I don’t think I ever wanted to (leave office). I have always felt like I had something to contribute to the county,” he said.

More than three decades later, Bowden has seen numerous changes in the county, primarily growth-related.

In 1976, there were 8,500 residents county wide, nine people who worked in the sheriff’s office, and about 40 people working in administrative positions, Bowden said.

Today, there are about 23,000 residents, 117 people in the Sheriffs office, and about 400 people working in administrative positions.

“We had a budget of $3 million when I joined the board in 1976,” Bowden said. “This year, we adopted a budget of $63 million.”

But even if Bowden never returns to state politics, he says he will be most proud of the high level of commitment to exemplary education within the county.

“There are many rewarding experiences I’ve encountered over the years, but I have to rate the development of our education system as extremely high, and I’m very proud of it,” he said.

For the many public officials he served with, he will be remembered as the consummate southern gentleman, a man of great wisdom and a friend to the county.

“I’ve worked these (30) years for the county not because I had to but because I wanted to,” Bowden said. “I thank you all for allowing me to serve you through the years and I’m always a phone call away.”

Bowden offered two final pieces of wisdom to the incoming board and first-time commissioners.

“My advice to the board and especially the new commissioners is to leave their ego at home, and come to the meetings with an open mind,” Bowden said. “If they can do that they’ll do all of us proud.”