Bridge weights, sea level addressed in bill

Published 11:36 pm Saturday, April 4, 2015

Senator Bill Cook introduced legislation last week that would seeking a closer look at two issues: bridge weight restrictions and restrictions on the drainage of agricultural lands affected by a sea level change.

Cook introduced the legislation on March 26, on behalf of those involved in the agriculture business that have been hampered by current restrictions. Senator Brent Jackson, a Republican from District 10 (Duplin, Johnston and Sampson counties) has joined him in sponsoring the bill that would asks NCDOT to study the weight limits set for bridges on roads impacting serving the agricultural areas of the state, and determine whether there is any leeway in lessening those restrictions so that trucks loaded with agricultural products aren’t required to detour around the weight-restricted bridges.

“Back in February, I met with local farmers in Beaufort and Hyde counties, and one of the issues that they told me was low weight bridge restrictions. An example of one in Beaufort County is State Road 1700 (Beech Ridge Road) just east of Pantego. Currently the bridge is restricted with a weight limit of 72,000 pounds. Several farmers have to go around because their loads exceed 72,000 pounds,” Cook wrote in a statement.

The bill also calls for the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources to study regulatory barriers faced by farmers “who are impacted by diminished drainage from farmland due to rising sea level and therefore need to increase the pumping of surface water into canals and other manmade drainage structures in order to continue the use of the land for agricultural activity. The report shall include the Department’s recommendations for economically viable and environmentally sound methods for sufficient drainage of coastal agricultural lands impacted by rising sea levels.”

Cook declined to comment about if there had been reports of sea level change impacting eastern North Carolina agricultural land or if the bill was intended to address future sea level change.

The NCDOT and NCDENR reports would be turned into their respective oversight committees no later than Feb. 1, 2016, should the bill be passed.