Oregon Inlet

The Bonner Bridge connects Bodie and Hatteras Islands on the Outer Banks
ncdot.org

The last legal obstacles have been cleared to begin the process of rebuilding the Bonner Bridge.

Governor Pat McCrory announced today that the final terms have been settled between the state and environmental groups. The 52-year old Bonner Bridge spans the Oregon Inlet.

“This marks another historic milestone in finally replacing the critical lifeline bridge for residents and visitors of the Outer Banks and supporting our continued efforts to connect North Carolina,” McCrory said in a press release. 

A picture of the Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet.
Vbofficial / Wikipedia

A new bill introduced in the North Carolina Senate would allow the state to offer to buy or trade the federal government for the Oregon Inlet.

The Department of Interior took over ownership of the waterway in 1958. It charges the Army Corps of Engineers with dredging there -- being that it's an important access point for commercial fishermen and boat builders.

But state Representative Bill Cook said the feds rarely put up enough money to manage shoaling in the Oregon Inlet.

A picture of the Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet.
Vbofficial / Wikipedia

Dredging has been suspended in the Oregon Inlet on the Outer Banks.

The Army Corps of Engineers says the water is too shallow to allow the dredge access to the main channel.  Raymond Pugh owns Fin-Nagle Fishing Charters in Nags Head.  He said his boat is small enough to get through, but larger commercial fishing boats are having trouble and that's hard on the local economy.

A picture of the Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet.
Vbofficial / Wikipedia

Federal budget cuts are making it harder to keep a shipping channel open on the Outer Banks.  Fishermen use the channel to get in and out of Oregon Inlet under the Bonner Bridge. 

Bob Sattin is the Chief of Operations with the Wilmington District of the Army Corp of Engineers.  He said one dredge is working to clear the inlet, but paying for it is a problem.

Bonner Bridge
jennyk325 via Flickr Creative Commons

The Bonner Bridge reopened to traffic yesterday afternoon.

Structural safety concerns caused officials to close the bridge on N.C. 12 earlier this month.  However, the North Carolina Department of Transportation engineers deemed the bridge safe for traffic after several sonar scans, driving two test pilings, and multiple inspections over the past week.

The emergency repair work to add more support to the bridge continues.

Boat builders on the Outer Banks say they're losing millions of dollars worth of business as the Oregon Inlet remains closed. The water there has been too shallow to allow vessels through since November. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it can not afford the $17 million it needs to dredge the inlet. Some business owners told Dare County Commissioners this week they might relocate if the inlet remains impassible. John Bayliss owns a boat building company in Wanchese.

Dredging crews are set to survey the Oregon Inlet again this morning after they suspended operations due to shallow waters. Officials with the U-S Army Corps of Engineers say strong winds brought more sand into the inlet last week. That prevents crews from using their side-casting dredge. Bob Sattin is the cheif operator for the Army Corps of Engineers in Wilmington: