Sustainability Sets Sail in the Outer Banks

North Carolina’s Outer Banks may be known for its breathtaking sunsets, but there’s more than color on the horizon. The Marc Basnight Bridge is making its mark on the skyline as it takes over for the iconic Herbert C. Bonner Bridge.
Bonner Bridge was built in 1963 and was the only
access route across the Oregon Inlet. 

No longer serving as the building blocks of the Bonner
Bridge, the concrete pieces will be placed at four
separate reef sites.

Built in 1963, the Bon​​​ner Bridge​, as it’s typically called, was the only access route across the Oregon Inlet. Over the years, the harsh marine climate weathered the Bonner Bridge, requiring it to pass its duties to the next bridge in line.

The Marc Basnight Bridge was up for the challenge. The new superstructure, built by PCL, provides a safer access route across the inlet. Following the bridge’s opening in February 2019, the team embarked on demolition of the old Bonner Bridge, which was a perfect candidate for the creation of artificial reefs because it checked off four, important criteria put in place by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries: function, compatibility, durability and stability.

In total, 70,000 tons of concrete will be recycled from the old bridge and used to create marine habitats in the form of artificial reefs. These concrete pieces, 60 feet long and weighing between 20 and 100 tons each, will be placed at four separate reef sites. The artificial reef sites range in size from 10 to 22 acres and are up to 12 miles offshore from the bridge’s original location.

Diving into the Facts

Artificial reefs can be made from vessels, pipes, concrete castings or demolished concrete and are crucial to the area because of the lack of natural reefs on the relatively flat ocean floor.

Instead of being discarded, these recycled materials set out for a greater purpose. No longer serving as the building blocks of bridges, structures or even ships, the materials are revamped to become home to hundreds of ocean species, while also reducing landfill waste.

These solid construction materials are preferred because they can weather harsh storms and provide small, protective spaces for local marine life to flourish.

Bridging a Gap

The community’s strong fishing and diving culture mean it is important to maintain these reefs and add new ones to the coast. Demolitions, like that of the Bonner Bridge, serve multiple purposes and benefit both the local economy and fish populations.  


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