U.S. officials have given grudging approval for a North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) plan to rebuild the dwindling beaches that protect North Carolina Route 12 from the storms and waves of the Atlantic. The Raleigh News and Observer has a report (see: "Engineers try to buy time on the NC Outer Banks," by Bruce Siceloff).
NC 12 is the only road to the farther Outer Banks islands, and has washed out repeatedly in recent years during hurricanes and nor'easter storms. "DOT engineers have a longer-term fix in mind, a bridge that will lift more than 2 miles of N.C. 12 high above the surging ocean," the News and Observer reports. "They want to buy time—and provide a protective buffer for their three-year construction project—by building out a 100-yard-wide beach at Rodanthe."
The DOT request involved the federal Park Service as well as the Fish and Wildlife Service. Neither agency likes to re-engineer nature—the Park Service tends to allow natural forces to take their course, while Fish and Wildlife doesn't like the idea of heavy equipment at work among the nesting grounds of endangered species or game animals. But North Carolina Governor, Pat McCrory, framed the issue in terms of vital community needs, citing island residents who need the road to sustain their livelihoods and allow critical access for emergency services.
"If we didn't approve it, then we were defying a governor's declaration of emergency," said Dennis Stewart, a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "So where's that going to get us?"