Beth explained the details rather succinctly on her "Bridge Moms" facebook page this morning.
And I quote:
"Yesterday was a GREAT DAY!!!!
Sorry to not get a synopsis out yesterday on the Bonner Bridge settlement, things happened fast and the settlement document was fairly long. The following is as I understand it.....
Let me say right off, as read, it is a good thing. Bonner will be built. NCDOT mobilized the contractor yesterday and they can begin construction as soon as the Court approves settlement and a few other items are checked off (hopefully 60-90 days). SELC and plaintiffs agree not to file an injunction or otherwise impede mobilization of work for Bonner. Furthermore, they agree not to sue the State of North Carolina or the United States including any agency official or employee regarding NEPA or Section 4F documents or any permits, approval or other decision regarding Bonner or the new temporary interim bridge for the Irene Inlet area allowed under the settlement. It will take 3 years after start of construction to build Bonner.
Work on the currently contracted Irene inlet bridge has been permanently stopped and that contract is cancelled while the parties agree to study a new option. In the interim, a new temporary bridge will be built no more than 3,000 feet in length (a little over a half a mile) and about 15 feet in height over mean high water. If a storm event forces repair in that area before the new interim bridge is built, the agreement allows for emergency temporary measures to restore safe and reliable transportation.
At the S-Curves, NCDOT will move forward with the bridge that swings out into the sound (“jug handle”) as their preferred alternative. The majority of the NEPA process work has been completed on this and they are at the point where the Merger team must meet and get concurrence. The Merger Team meets tomorrow. In the settlement agreement, SELC and plaintiffs agree not to sue the State of North Carolina or the United States including any agency official or employee regarding NEPA or Section 4F documents or any permits, approval or other decision regarding the S-Curves bridge.
CHEC signed off on the settlement because it will allow the cooperative to replace the aging transmission cable attached to the Bonner Bridge. The cooperative investigated several options for providing electric service to Hatteras Island, and attaching cables to the new bridge is by far the least expensive option. In regards to electric service in the s-curves area, CHEMC recently completed a westward relocation and hardening of the transmission line. Additionally of course, we did get nourishment there.
The above being said we have fixes for three of our most critical transportation weaknesses at the North end of Hatteras Island, they are funded in NCDOT’s 10 year plan and we have a binding agreement that no legal action will be bought against the projects if the agreed upon steps are taken. Furthermore, CHEMC can move forward with line replacement on the new Bonner Bridge in an affordable way for Hatteras Islanders.
The “new” part of the Pea Island transportation corridor and what is talked about in the settlement agreement is the idea of the “Extension Alternative”. The agreement allows for it to be studied as an alternative to the cancelled Irene Inlet project. It would connect the S-Curves Bridge (from a point out in the sound) and continue it offshore of Pea Island and then bring it back to shore on Pea Island above Irene inlet area. If after moving through the NEPA study, public hearings and comment periods, merger team meetings, etc it survives, SELC and plaintiffs have agreed not to bring suit against the bridge and to help secure funding for it. This alternative was never considered in the lawsuit and therefore could not be approved without vetting by the public via the NEPA process and the outcome cannot be pre-determined. This was made very clear in the Fourth Circuit ruling: “If conditions change to such an extent, Defendants must issue a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement prior to taking any other action. 40 C.F.R. § 1502.9(c)(1)(i), (ii).” This will be a lengthy process IMO with many entities and factors having to be weighed in. Any concerns about major loss of access would be very premature at this point in time. Pardon the pun, but let's cross that bridge when we come to it.
Hopefully this helps condense some of the information. Beth"