RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The leader of North Carolina's coastal development policy panel has declined to hear an appeal by environmental groups opposing plans for a replacement Outer Banks bridge.

The Division of Coastal Management said Tuesday the Coastal Resources Commission chairman denied the request for a hearing on a permit issued to the Department of Transportation for the Bonner Bridge replacement.

The current bridge spans Oregon Inlet and links Hatteras Island to points north such as Nags Head. The proposed bridge would run parallel to the existing span.

Groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center have 30 days to appeal in state court. The groups already have sued in federal court to halt the replacement plans.

DOT still needs other permits before construction can begin next year.

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