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Pea Island NWR Powers Up the Outer Banks

Pea Island | Photo Credit: Mark Buckler
Pea Island | Photo Credit: Mark Buckler

The Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on the Outer Banks of North Carolina has long been helping power the local economy through ecotourism and beautiful natural beaches, but this summer, the refuge was more than an economic power house, it literally helped “power” the island!

On July 27, bridge construction crews working on the new Bonner Bridge on North Carolina’s coast inadvertently cut off power to Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. The power outage caused instant and serious disruption to the tourists and tourism businesses at the peak of tourist season. Approximately 50,000 visitors evacuated Hatteras and Ocracoke islands under two mandatory orders issued by Governor Roy Cooper. Governor Cooper also declared a State of Emergency. Officials originally estimated that it could take weeks before power could be fully restored during peak tourist season, which runs from mid-June through Labor Day.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation and Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative developed a plan to resolve the outage as quickly as possible.  Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge Assistant Manager Art Beyer quickly responded to requests for assistance to allow for the temporary use of a portion of the refuge to create a new alignment of the power transmission lines. In a long standing tradition of cooperation with both the NCDOT and the CHEC, Refuge Manager Scott Lanier along with Beyer and staff quickly assessed the situation for any potential short or long term impacts and immediately issued permission for construction of the power line to begin. Refuge staff followed up by preparing a special use permit for a temporary construction easement to document the justified decision to help get power back to their neighbors on Hatteras Island.

On August 3, weeks before originally anticipated, CHEC fully restored power to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, and the island communities reopened for business on August 4. Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge joined the communities in welcoming visitors and tourists back to the area. The refuge offers visitors great opportunities for surf fishing on beautiful Atlantic beaches and birding from ocean shoreline to dunes to impoundments that attract waterfowl, wading birds, and shorebirds. Visitors were soon enjoying again the visitor center managed by the refuge’s friends group, where they can learn about the refuge and its natural resources and shop for wildlife-oriented items in the gift shop.

It was a great day for the refuge and its neighbors on Hatteras Island. The National Wildlife Refuge Association thanks refuge staff for its quick work in responding to the power outage in a way that benefits both the community and the refuge and its wildlife and habitat.

Permanent link to this article: http://refugeassociation.org/2017/08/pea-island-nwr-powers-up-the-outer-banks/

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