DARE COUNTY, N.C. (WAVY) - When Hurricane Sandy hit Hatteras Island the last weekend of October, she ripped up part of Highway 12 at Mirlo Beach, cutting off Hatteras Island to the mainland.
WAVY.com learned the road reopened to four-wheel drive traffic late in the day on Nov. 14 after being closed off due to overwash the day before.
Hurricane Sandy was the second storm in a year that ripped up the same stretch of Highway 12. Emergency ferries had to take people and supplies on a two-hour journey each way from Stumpy Pointe to Rodanthe.
An Outer Banks resident sent the following email to 10 On Your Side:
"I'm stuck on the mainland, had to get a hotel room last night because no ferries after 9:30 and the [road] was closed due to water on the four-wheel drive road in Rodanthe! Politicians have allowed this disaster to happen to Hatteras Island. The story is very simple: GROSS NEGLIGENCE!"
There are two realities on Hatteras Island - one of pristine beauty and the other of ugly destruction, ripped up roads and lives turned upside down and inside out.
John Wadsworth's home that he purchased two months ago was condemned.
"Well, you do one of two things laugh or cry, and I choose to laugh," Wadsworth said.
Chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners Warren Judge said there is a long-term solution to fixing Highway 12.
"We've got the ability and the resolve," Judge said. "We just have to get people out of our way. We've got to a federal government that will help us."
Environmental special interest groups support a 17.5-mile bridge built over the Pamlico Sound from Oregon Inlet through Rodanthe which would bipass the washed out roads and inlets. It comes with a pricetag of more than $1 billion. The North Carolina Department of Transportation says there's no money.
NCDOT proposes a combination of high dunes, beach nourishment and smaller bridges over the worst washout areas like the one they built in 2011, coinciding with the new Bonner Bridge. The plan does cost less, but keeps the current flawed road system.
There are fears of lawsuits against that plan like the ones against the $216 million Bonner Bridge which is still tied up in court due to federal challenges from what Judge calls obstructionists.
"They have strong lobbing groups and they are always in Washington, all the time, walking the halls of Congress... they have a vision of Hatteras Island and Pea Island to be desolate for wildlife only and for man woman and child to be removed from the island all together," Judge said.
From his car bumper stickers which oppose the Southern Environmental Law Center that represents the environmentalists, it's clear Frisco resident Greg Weiss agrees with Judge.
"The environmentalists who make decisions for the island don't live here," Weiss said. "They think we are all killing animals and the animals are more important than the people are."
Julie Youngman, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center on the Bonner Bridge legal challenge, says their lawsuit has not delayed the Bonner Bridge construction and points out the group wants all possibilities explored.
"They still have permits they need to get... we have filed a federal law suit challenging the decision selecting the plan they have," Youngman said. "We are pointing out the flaws and the failure of the agency to consider all the factors they should have considered."
Youngman supports the 17.5-mile bridge, but also supports high-speed ferries which are much faster than the current state ferries.
"These are not the slow ferries the state is operating now," Youngman said. "The ferries we have suggested that have not been studied at all are high-speed, shallow draft ferries that could make the trip much quicker and take more passengers and cars at a time."
Critics would argue with the low tides that would require expensive dredging along with several other issues with a ferry service to Hatteras Island.
New ferries and other ideas by the SELC seem to be astounding to Dare County Board Commissioner Allen Burrus.
"Yeah, we get really ticked off," Burris said. "We are upset and you look at someone like the Southern Environmental Law Center and all those lawyers sitting in their nice homes in Chapel Hill making it difficult for us."
Judge says legal challenges made by groups like the SELC have created a dark civil war on Hatteras Island, with homeowners like Wadsworth stuck in the middle.
"It's a cycle that needs to be broken if people will put political differences aside.," Wadsworth said. "Let's do what is in the best interest of these people and put aside our political differences."
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