Thursday, January 28, 2010

Much Anticipation for the EIS report for the Bridge

While a number of Chicken Little's have been crying "the bridge is coming, the bridge is coming!" for a year now, I have never joined the ranks because I have been waiting for, among other things, the Environmental Impact Study (EIS). We are not far away and it consider it the fulcrum point of the entire project. Below is an article from the Daily Advance's Toby Tate on the report and it's impact.

The long-awaited environmental impact statement for the Currituck Mid-County Bridge is expected to be released in the next couple of weeks, representing a major milestone for the $660 million project.

The Federal Highway Administration is currently reviewing the study, known as an EIS, and after then, it should be released to the N.C. Turnpike Authority, spokesman Beau Memory said.

Turnpike engineer Jennifer Harris said the EIS will be posted on the agency’s Web site, and that will be followed by a series of hearings for public input.

Harris said the bridge study is being prepared differently from a traditional EIS.

“We discuss alternatives that we will evaluate to see how they meet the purpose of need, what kind of impact they would have on the environment and we investigate and quantify the costs for the alternatives,” she said.

Alternatives would include several different bridge designs or no bridge at all, as well as ferry and transit systems.

Harris said there are many technical reports in the EIS that are summarized and referenced so readers can get additional information.

“(The reports) will be used in addition to maps at hearings to facilitate getting comments from the public and environmental agencies, which will all be considered” in deciding which bridge option to pursue, she said.

The mid-county bridge will span 7 miles across Currituck Sound from the Currituck County mainland to Corolla on the Currituck Outer Banks.

According to project engineers, the bridge will improve traffic flow between N.C. Highway 12 and U.S. Highway 158, reduce travel time for those traveling between the mainland to the Outer Banks and speed up evacuations before hurricanes make landfall.

A bridge toll ranging from $6 to $30 per crossing has been proposed but nothing has been finalized. The range of tolls was compiled during a recent online survey of Currituck, Dare, Camden and Pasquotank county residents.

According to the Turnpike Authority, the final environmental impact statement is scheduled for release in the second quarter of this year.

It was originally set to be released last summer. But Turnpike engineers asked for more time to investigate modifications to the bridge’s design and introduce a new option, called “Option B.” The option was unveiled to Currituck residents last October.

“We’ve been studying this project for a few years and doing the engineering work under a few parameters and a few assumptions,” Harris explained in a previous interview. “(This idea) ... could save the project a considerable amount of money and help the project be more financially feasible as well as from a natural environment standpoint provide some improvements.”

The Option B plan includes relocating the bridge’s toll collection booths and moving Aydlett Road traffic on the new bridge highway. All but a small portion of Aydlett Road would then be removed.

“Aydlett Road is essentially a dam in between two parts of Maple Swamp,” Harris explained. “It keeps the swamp from being a continuous natural feature.”

But many Currituck residents, including the Board of Commissioners, have voiced opposition to Option B, saying that it addresses environmental concerns at the expense of residents.

Jennifer Symonds, a resident of Aydlett, the community where the bridge crossing will start, said she’s pleased with commissioners’ opposition to Plan B.

“The fact is, any popular vacation spot is going to have traffic,” Symonds said during a commissioners meeting earlier this week. “The northern Outer Banks is limited by land mass — it’s a very narrow strip of land. The bridge will not affect that traffic one bit. It will only create more choke points and more traffic.”

Because the proposed bridge will only be a two-lane crossing, Symonds said the potential for traffic snarls won’t be decreased.

“What happens when there’s an accident on the bridge?” she asked. “The traffic will back up to Barco and beyond and no one will be getting anywhere soon.”

The latest schedule calls for the bridge to open to traffic in 2013.

Another Nor'Easter to hit this weekend

This is a heads up from our friends from the National Weather Service Long Range Forecast Department. More info will be provided as it is received and more definitive local forecast developed. However, as this is a weekend event any pre-planning for this weather event should begin now.

>A significant winter storm will be tracking eastward across the Gulf
>coast reforming off the SC coast Saturday and moving seaward Sunday
>followed by cold high pressure. This is a very wet system which will
>leave heavy rains across the Gulf coastal states into GA/SC and
>southern NC. Cold high pressure to the north provides a strong thermal
>clash setting up a broad area of overrunning type of precipitation
>which appears most likely to be of the frozen type. At this time a
>heavy snow seems likely across eastern KY/southern WV/ most of VA
>including the Hampton Roads area/ lower Delmarva and northeast NC into
>Currituck county. Details of this may change either northward or
>southward and will most likely...typically not be known until later
>tomorrow or even Friday.
> There is a coastal tidal flood threat for the Delmarva/Chesapeake
> Bay/NC Outer Banks. Strong NE onshore flow ahead of the reforming low
> will be followed by a strong shift to North and then Northwest later
> Saturday and into Sunday. This will be enhanced by a perigean full
> moon which will be the second closest to the earth in the next 6
> years. Pamlico sound side flooding threat Sat night and Sunday with a
> strong cold N-NW flow. While this is not that deep or strong a storm
> and it is progressive the lunar set up may well bring a greater
> flooding threat than would be normally expected.
> Snow threat across southern VA down to and including Norfolk at this
> time is in the 6-10 inch range. Would not be surprised to see some
> significant snow as far south as Manteo/Wanchese and Nags Head.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Commercial Proposed in Swan Beach....Again.

This time the proposal even includes a fishing pier! Due up at the next planning board meeting on Feb 9, 2010 is a request to receive Conditional Zoning for a new development ironically named the "Swan Beach Preserve" for the North and South Business districts in Swan Beach. Plans and renderings include a hotel, bungalows, a chapel, bait shop, gym, and even a fishing pier out into the Atlantic Ocean. While this is not the first attempt at commercial ventures in Swan Beach, this is certainly the farthest reaching to date. I have included renderings and also have included the description here. Stay tuned, this ought to be interesting. Here is also an article in the Virginia Pilot

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Professional Fisherman visits the Wash Woods Life Saving Station

Putting out the flag this morning I was greeted with a friendly face down by the beach. Tired and in search of some sun, this seal swam ashore for a nap. I promptly called N.E.S.T. to have someone monitor the seal and roped off a perimeter so vehicles could see the seal...but I did manage to grab a few select photos.