NC - Officials Seek Long-Term Plan to Save N.C. 12

As sea levels continue to rise, the most imperiled spot on North Carolina’s vulnerable Outer Banks is likely on Ocracoke Island, where an erosion hot spot threatening its sole highway is past due for a long-term transportation solution, including potentially bypassing the north end of the island.

“I’d say on N.C. 12, this is probably the top priority, if not very close to the top priority,” Paul Williams, North Carolina Department of Transportation Division 1 environmental officer, told members of the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission during its April 28 meeting, which was held virtually.

“Just seeing what the precarious situation is,” he continued, “you’ve got ferry access to this island that needs to be maintained, and Hatteras access is essential.”

But N.C 12, the two-lane highway perched mere inches above sea level, squeezed between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pamlico Sound and stretching nearly 65 miles on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands alone, has numerous issues and needs an overall long-term plan, Bob Woodward, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, said during his opening comments at the April 19 meeting.

“And that’s not in the mix right now,” he said. “We’re reactive.”

Woodward said he had initiated the formation of the N.C. 12 Task Force as a collaborative body to develop a long-term plan with resilient solutions to address current and future challenges “related to storms, erosion and sea level rise.”

And we’re going to try to identify funding strategies and a timeline for implementing this,” he said.

Members will represent task force partners Dare County, Hyde County, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and a stakeholders group will include members of the public and from other interests such as nonprofit and community organizations. It is to meet monthly.

“There’ll be all kinds of folks involved,” the chairman said. “We need to touch base with every single entity that this would impact.”

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