Agencies reject proposal

Published 7:30 am Friday, March 6, 2009

By Staff
Regulators contend pile-driving study plan is ‘insufficient’
Contributing Editor
The state has rejected a proposed study plan that would have allowed pilings for the U.S. Highway 17 bypass bridge to be installed in the Tar River.
A revised plan is scheduled to be submitted Monday, N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources spokesman Jamie Kritzer said Thursday. While the plan is being revised and reviewed again, stumps and other obstructions in the water may be removed.
Terms of a modified permit issued to the N.C. Department of Transportation late last month allowed limited pile-driving operations to resume once a plan was completed to study the effects of those operations on certain species of fish.
The plan, being developed by DOT, the bypass contractor, Division of Marine Fisheries and the Wildlife Resources Commission, must be approved by the state Division of Coastal Management and Division of Water Quality.
DOT contracted with Flatiron/United to build the bypass.
The rejected plan was submitted Feb. 26. DWQ determined it is “insufficient,” Kritzer said.
DOT and Flatiron/United met with DWQ and the Division of Coastal Management on Thursday to discuss the rejected plan and the parameters for submitting a revised plan, Kritzer said. DOT and Flatiron/United will submit an “extension” so it can continue working on the plan, he said.
Under terms of the modified permit, the deadline to submit the plan was today. The extension allows DOT and Flatiron/United more time to revise the plan so it meets the agencies’ criteria for approval, Kritzer said.
A conference call for DOT, Flatiron/United and the regulatory agencies to review the revised plan has been scheduled for Tuesday, Kritzer said.
In-water work to build the bridge was halted from Feb. 15 to June 15 under conditions of the permit before it was modified. The moratorium was implemented to protect specific species of fish as they swim upriver to spawn.
The modified permit was issued Feb. 20. Once a plan is approved, the driving of pilings may continue through April 30 for up to four hours one day a week.
The Pamlico-Tar River Foundation had asked that such a study plan be required as part of any agreement to let pile-driving operations resume.
She said data from the study will be valuable because there is limited information related to the effects of pile-driving operations on specific species of fish.
The revised permit also calls for pile-driving operations to cease if a specific number of fish are killed during those operations.
If one sturgeon is killed during an in-water work period, in-water work must cease until the incident is reviewed by DWQ. If 25 or more river herring, hickory shad, American shad or striped bass (or any combination of those species) are killed during any installation of a piling, then in-water work must stop until DWQ reviews that incident.
Attempts to reach Flatiron/United and DOT officials for comment were unsuccessful.