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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Line in the Sand

Posted September 23, 2005

I hope all of you who read this blog will tune in to WRAL TV Wednesday night September 28 at 7:00PM for the documentary “Line in the Sand.” I had the pleasure of working with Jay Jennings and Clay Johnson on this compelling documentary about erosion and rising sea level on the Outer Banks. Scientists say major sections of these barrier islands could be underwater within our lifetime. The Focal Point is Highway 12. This highway has been called the most expensive road to maintain in North Carolina. The trouble is the highway is a permanent thing while the Outer Banks are not. They’re constantly changing. They’re migrating.

I interviewed East Carolina University geologist Stan Riggs who is deeply concerned about the future of this beautiful sliver of NC. Tourists spend hundreds of millions of dollars visiting the Outer Banks every year, but scientists say the foundation of that economy is on shaky ground. They say erosion combined with rising sea level and increased storm activity could cause major sections of the Outer Banks to go underwater within the next few decades. They say Highway 12, which provides access to the Outer Banks and connects its communities, is a symptom of the problem. The state has spent about $50 million rebuilding, relocating and trying to protect the highway over the last 20 years only to have sections of it continually washed away by the sea. Critics say it’s an exercise in futility and a waste of state and federal tax dollars. They also fear that the Bonner Bridge, which carries Highway 12 across Oregon Inlet and connects the northern and southern Outer Banks, may not last much longer.

Focal Point: “Line in the Sand” looks at the future of the Outer Banks and its critical connector Highway 12. It examines the dire predictions by scientists and the political battle that continues to delay the search for long-term solutions to protect one of our state’s most valuable natural, recreational and economic resources.
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