Reprinted from Outer Banks Voice
After six months of meetings, a subcommittee of the N.C. 12 Task Force has reached a consensus on what areas of the vulnerable road that connects Ocracoke and Hatteras with the northern Outer Banks should be the top priorities for keeping the transportation link open.
The subcommittee at its Jan. 13 meeting focused on five areas of concern: Ocracoke, Sandy Bay between Frisco and Hatteras Village, Buxton, Avon and the canal zone around the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.
The members ultimately agreed that the canal zone and Ocracoke would be identified as the top priorities in the draft report they will present to the full N.C. 12 Task Force.
Dare County officials created the N.C. 12 Task Force in the spring of 2021 to begin planning for and searching for viable solutions to the problems when it comes to the vulnerable stretch of highway, according to the county.
“When we write up this report … the canal zone, Ocracoke, Frisco, Buxton, Avon would be the order that we put them in for the long-term solutions,” said National Park Service Outer Banks Group Superintendent Dave Hallac.
During the meeting, there was discussion about whether all hotspots could be grouped into one priority, but Task Force Chair and Dare County Manager Bobby Outten asserted that such a strategy could leave stakeholders without a say about where and how projects and funds are allocated.
“Either we tell them we want to start here … and that’s where we need to allocate the money, or they’re going to say, ‘we have this much money’ and that is going to determine where they start whether we like it or not,” Outten said. “At some point, they’re going to make the … decision for us if we don’t have a target.”
Of the two areas identified as top priorities, Ocracoke has the most complex and expensive needs, as pointed out by state Department of Transportation Deputy Division Engineer Win Bridgers.
“Ocracoke is a constant maintenance effort and threat … that probably represents the biggest dollar value or the total of need to come up with any legitimate cure,” he said.
The group also came to quick agreement that the canal zone had to be the top priority with Frisco resident Natalie Kavanaugh stating that, “I think we can all agree on that on Hatteras Island. We can’t get off the island if you can’t get through the canal zone.”
Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative General Manager Susan Flythe touched on the importance of the transportation network to power and communications.
“The islands are also providing critical infrastructure via electricity and communication, and (that power and communication) all run down the island. And the further north that they are compromised, the more of the island residents and businesses that are impacted,” she said.
Because Dare County has pending beach nourishment projects in Avon and Buxton, Hallac recommended that they be given lower priorities.
The subcommittee consists of stakeholders deciding which projects to fund and the parameters of those projects. It includes officials from Dare and Hyde counties, NCDOT, the National Park Service, the Southern Environmental Law Center, or SELC, and others. The subcommittee will issue a draft report to the N.C. 12 Task Force for approval.
This story is provided courtesy of the Outer Banks Voice, a digital newspaper covering the Outer Banks. Coastal Review is partnering with the Voice to provide readers with more environmental and lifestyle stories of interest about our coast.