WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - Harry Stovall admits he is not an engineer or an expert on inlets but the Wrightsville Beach native says he think he has a decent idea for the future of the future of the town’s drawbridge.
Stovall, who has lived in Wrightsville most of his life, came up with a plan to make Mason Inlet a navigable and fully maintained waterway out to the ocean.
That would allow north and southbound waterway traffic that can't pass under the bridge to use Mason and Masonboro inlets, limiting drawbridge openings to emergency and barge traffic.
"I looked at the proposals or the ideas, projections, whatever you want to call them, and saw how far off in the future they were and how expensive they were," Stovall said of concepts from the NC Department of Transportation, which continues to accept public input on the bridge's future. "Basically, it kind of came to me out of the blue. I said, 'There is an idea that would work and it's pretty simple actually.' No deeper than that really."
Wrightsville Beach leaders have seen Stovall's idea and Town Manager Tim Owens said it, like others, will be considered.
"At this point, I think everything is on the table," Owens said. "We went through a public input process and will continue to do that until such time that there's not any more public comment."
In May, the DOT presented five concepts to replace the 60-year-old bridge, ranging from $69 million to $122 million for a new drawbridge or a high-rise bridge.
According to a feasibility study done by the DOT, the remaining life of the bridge is around 23 years but only after major rehabilitation costs.
Stovall is hopeful Congressman David Rouzer will get on board with his idea and that some solution will be resolved for the bridge, and the traffic snags that come along with it, sooner than the DOT projections.
"We'll talk to Congressman Rouzer and present the idea," Stovall said. "Then it's just a matter of going through the particulars and seeing if it would work, or what it would take to work, not if it would work. It would work but it's a question of what it would take to make it work."
According to Stovall, dredging and regular maintenance of Mason Inlet would be required but he said that is much cheaper than building a new high-rise bridge.
If construction of a new drawbridge is approved, Stovall said his idea would allow for that.
“The sentiment around here for a lot of people is they’d like to keep the drawbridge and this would be a way that they could,” he said. “They could build a new drawbridge. A lot of people don’t want the high-rise bridge.”
Stovall, who works in real estate, said he doesn’t stand to make any money off his idea and that he just wants what’s best for traffic flow in the town.