Sunday, January 22, 2012

NC Turnpike Authority completes Final Environmental Impact Statement

What is being billed as a significant step in the process to build the Mid-Currituck Bridge, the NC Turnpike Authority has completed and released the Final Environmental Impact Statement. They have also revised their timeline (below). Little matters until we confirm the money exists for this project, which is less certain, given the make-up of NC politics these days. See related article below from the Daily Advance

Project Schedule (subject to change)

Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Final Environmental Impact Statement

Record of Decision
2nd Quarter 2012

Begin Final Design
2nd Quarter 2012

Begin Construction
4th Quarter 2012

Project Open to Traffic

Environment study recommends mid-Currituck bridge

By Cindy Beamon
The Daily Advance

Friday, January 20, 2012

CURRITUCK — Plans for the $660 million mid-county bridge cleared a last major hurdle Thursday with release of the final environmental impact statement by the N.C. Turnpike Authority.

The study recommends the preferred alternative for the project, which involves construction of a seven-mile toll bridge across the Currituck Sound, as well as limited improvements to existing N.C. Highway 12 and U.S. Highway 158.
The Turnpike Authority, the state agency in charge of the bridge project said federal approval is expected this spring when the Federal Highway Administration issues its record of decision on the bridge. The Turnpike Authority said construction is set to begin by late this year and the bridge will open to traffic in 2017.

“The approval of this FEIS marks an important step forward for this project, which has been years in the making,” said David Joyner, executive director of the Turnpike Authority. “As the environmental planning process nears completion, the Turnpike Authority will determine over the next few months whether to proceed with the public-private partnership option or utilize municipal financing to build the project.”

Supporters applauded the possibility Tuesday that construction could begin soon, but opponents said the project is still far from being certain.

Jennifer Symonds, a long-time opponent of the bridge, said if the project proceeds as the Turnpike Authority expects, “there will be a lawsuit without a doubt.”

She said the Turnpike Authority is overly optimistic about its timeline to begin work. One major obstacle — how the project will be funded — still remains shaky, she said.

Supporters of the project were more optimistic that plans would go according to schedule.

State Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank, said he’s hoping builders will break ground before he leaves office in 2012.

“It’s just one of the last remaining large items on my bucket list that I had to do as a politician,” said Owens.

John Rorer, chairman of the Currituck Board of Commissioners, said the county has already been making plans for the major construction project.

“This will open up a whole new wealth of opportunities for people in Currituck County,” Rorer said.

Financing for the project still remains uncertain. The Turnpike Authority said it will be weighing two options: a public-private partnership or state financing alone.

Rorer said he viewed the review of options as a good sign that the project will not hinge on what private investors decide.

Owens said the Turnpike Authority is “keeping its options open” but is not overly concerned about losing private backing for the project.

But Symonds said the funding issue is still far from resolved. Lawmakers nearly cut funding last year, and the project may face a similar challenge this year — but without the presence of its two major proponents, Owens and retired state Sen. Marc Basnight on board, she said.

The Environmental Impact Statement includes a preferred route for the bridge.

The preferred alternative for the bridge will place the toll plaza on the Currituck mainland at U.S. Highway 158 north of Aydlett with a bridge across Maple Swamp. Aydlett Road will remain open to traffic and turning movements would not be restricted at Waterlily Road. A median acceleration lane will be added to aid safe turns at Waterlily Road and U.S. 158.

The landing point for the bridge in Corolla would pass between the Corolla Bay subdivision and the northern end of Monteray Shores subdivision. The bridge approach will be at least 300 feet away from the homes and lots west off N.C. 12.

The project is expected to reduce travel time and congestion, as well as provide an alternative hurricane evacuation route for the northern Outer Banks.

The FEIS and supporting documents are available on the project website at By Feb. 3, hard copies of the FEIS may be viewed at the Currituck County Courthouse; public libraries in Corolla, Currituck County, and Dare County; the Town of Duck Administrative Building; town halls in Kitty Hawk and Southern Shores; the N.C. Department of Transportation Maintenance Yard Office in Maple; as well as by appointment at the Turnpike Authority Office in Raleigh.

Comments regarding the FEIS will be accepted until March 12. They can be e-mailed to or mailed to Jennifer Harris, North Carolina Turnpike Authority, 1578 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1578.

FEIS can be found here

Friday, January 13, 2012

Corolla Charter Scholl Passes Another Hurdle

The diligence is beginning to pay off as the hope for a Corolla Charter School is ever closer to becoming a reality. See DA article below for more details.

Council: OK Corolla charter school

By Staff reports
The Daily Advance
Thursday, January 12, 2012

COROLLA — Corolla’s proposed charter school moved a big step closer to reality Wednesday when a state agency recommended it for final approval.

The N.C. Public Charter School Advisory Council voted to allow Corolla’s Water’s Edge Village School application to proceed to the State Board of Education.

The state board will vote Feb. 2 on whether to grant Water’s Edge Village School a charter, according to Sylvia Wolff, vice president of the Corolla Education Foundation, the group spearheading the Corolla charter school effort.

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If granted, the charter would allow the Corolla Education Foundation to open the region’s first-ever charter school in Corolla this August.

Wolff said in an e-mail Thursday that members of the Water’s Edge Village School board of directors attended Wednesday’s meeting of the North Carolina Office of Charter Schools in Raleigh for a final interview.

“After an intense question-and-answer session and a few words of support from (state Rep.) Bill Owens, the panel voted to allow the application to proceed to the State Board of Education,” Wolff said.

Owens, D-Pasquotank, said Thursday the Public Charter 
Advisory Council appeared to recognize the “unique circumstances and situation” in Corolla.

The distance and drive from Corolla to Currituck’s mainland posed some difficult choices for families, said Owens. Students could either ride several hours on the bus or families were forced to pay extra for their children to attend school in Dare County, he noted.

The unique situation swayed at least one advisory council member, Owens said.

The member said he had never before favored granting a charter to a school that lacked the required number of students, but would in the Water’s Edge Village School’s case, Owens said.

The application was Corolla’s second attempt at establishing a charter school. Owens said finding a location for the school and financial support were key in the Corolla’s Water’s Edge Village School’s success this go-round.

“The seven board members of the charter school did their homework and addressed the key issues,” Owens said.

Corolla’s Water’s Edge organizers first applied to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to create a tuition-free public charter school in Corolla in February 2010.

The application made it to the final round of consideration by DPI officials, but ultimately was not approved.

Undeterred, school organizers began soliciting support from area school officials and lawmakers, including Owens.

Things first began looking up for the Corolla charter school last year when the General Assembly agreed to lift the cap of 100 charter schools in the state, and asked DPI to speed up the charter school application process for any group that had already submitted one.

In its revised application, Water’s Edge School projected having 31 students in grades K-6 when it opens in 2012 and growing to about 39 students by 2015-16.

The school’s organizers say the school would emphasize hands-on, outdoor learning and rely on Corolla’s natural resources and the nearby educational opportunities.

The school year would run from September through November with time off in December and January. The second trimester would run February through April, with a two-week break in April, then start in mid-May and go to the middle of August with a week off in July.

The school’s seven-member board said in November that it expected to receive $141,000 in state funding for the school as well as another $66,951 from Currituck County.

The school’s application included letters of support from Currituck County Schools, Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, the North Carolina Aquariums and Audubon Sanctuary at Pine Island.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Currituck County trying to clear out drainage

It is frustrating that the Army Corps has refused maintenance on some of the platted drainage ditches in the 4x4 area. I am not sure what a "naturalized state" of a drainage ditch looks like. One would contend it was in a naturalized state prior to being approved and dug the first time. Hopefully they will realize that drainage on a community level will benefit the area more successfully than imposing stricter individual water retention regulations on individual properties. Below is an article from the Daily Advance.

Currituck in race against nature to clear OBX ditches

By Cindy Beamon

The Daily Advance

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

CURRITUCK — Clearing ditches on the Outer Banks has turned out to be a race against nature for Currituck officials.

The county has sought to solve flooding problems on sand roads behind the dunes by clearing out drainage ditches.

That effort ran into a roadblock, however, after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied permits for the work. The Corps decided three main ditches in Carova had returned to their “naturalized state” and were no longer eligible for clearing.

Currituck commissioners are now rushing to get permits for other ditches not yet in their “naturalized state” before it is too late.

The county has not yet budgeted the work at Carova and North Swan Beach. But county officials say they want the permits on hand to ensure they can clear the ditches when they get ready. The county plans to dig the ditches, left untended for years, to their original depths.

The drainage ditches are among several options the county is examining to alleviate flooding and puddling on roads like Sand Fiddler and Ocean Pearl. In many cases, the roads have become washboards riddled with potholes.

Commissioners have discussed creating a service district to fix the problem, but it remains unclear if residents would be willing to pay for a new stormwater drainage system. In the past, residents have shoveled sand from the roads to fill their lots, leaving potholes that some hoped would discourage traffic and development on the remote stretch of beach. Now some roads run lower than surrounding lots, making the roads catch-basins for storm run-off.

Commissioner Vance Aydlett, who owns a vacation home in Carova, said only the roads — not homes — flood, unless there’s a nor’easter with 20 or more inches of rain. Less rain can make roads impassable for a while, but residents on the remote stretch of beach have gotten used to the situation, he said.

“There’s a whole lot more to this issue than meets the eye,” said Aydlett.

Commissioner Paul O’Neal recently suggested fixing the roads behind the dunes to alleviate another problem in the four-wheel drive area — too much traffic on beaches during summer months. He said more traffic on roads behind the dunes would mean less traffic on the beach.. County officials have been studying safety issues in the off-road area, but have not acted on suggested changes so far.

Another study may also examine the problem with flooding roads.

County Manager Dan Scanlon said the county plans to conduct a study to examine the impact of future growth in the area designated by the federal government as a COBRA zone. The designation makes homeowners ineligible for federal flood insurance as a way of discouraging growth in areas it deems unsuitable for development.

Despite the designation, development appears to be pushing its way northward to the off-road area. Some officials have predicted that construction of a mid-county bridge would add pressure for more growth.