Friday, April 12, 2013

East Fork Salmon River Bridges bids solicited

You can click on the graphic above to see a larger, more readable version.
It's official.  The legal notice for the East Fork Bridges Project hit the newspapers this week, appearing in "The Challis Messenger" April 11.  The "Notice of Letting" is dated April 8th.

This is going to be a very big project involving the construction of two bridges simultaneously.  One bridge will span The East Fork and the other will span The Salmon River just west of The East Fork.

The bridges will be constructed south of the existing Highway 75 so that traffic can flow largely unimpeded.  However, delays are likely during various phases of the construction project.

The Idaho Transportation Department (IDT) has been reconstructing various bridges on The Upper Salmon River for years.  The most recent projects in this vicinity between Challis and Stanley were the Slate Creek and Ice Corner bridges.

As far as river users go, this particular project could result in significant changes to fishing and recreational boating in this area.

During past bridge projects, boaters have not been allowed to pass underneath the bridge project area for obvious liability reasons.

There is an informal, undeveloped river access area on "river left" immediately downriver from the existing Highway 75 bridge.  We have made numerous inquiries of IDT, BLM, IDFG, "The Challis Messenger" and "The Post-Register" in Idaho Falls about how this project is going to affect the informal river access area.

We have come up empty-handed since our first inquiries last July.  We wish we had more to report about this situation.

Inflatables that can be hand carried might be able to launch from the BLM East Fork Recreation Area.  However at this time, we do not know if the BLM will keep the site open during the construction phase.

River users who put-in at the Squaw Creek Access Area will most likely have to find an alternate take-out upriver from the Hwy 75 bridge project.

The project is likely to affect drift boat users more than inflatable boat users.

One thing's for certain--when a plan set goes to bid as it has this week, the project is set in stone.  The opportunity to address the impact on river usage has now passed.  We will attempt to continue to look into this evolving situation.  Meanwhile, if you are a regular user of this are of The Salmon River--be prepared for substantial changes during at least the next two field seasons.

The bid solicitation stipulates the project must be completed "WITHIN 160 WORKING DAYS"  (caps emphasis by IDT).  Cost is estimated to be between $5-million and $10-million dollars.

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