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The long-awaited bridge building permit approval phone call and email from the US Army Corps of Engineers came on September 19. According to a report to the Salmon City Council on September 28 from city Community Project Coordinator Mary Cerise, work towards constructing a bridge to Island Park has been progressing ever since.

Cerise said the day after the official approval was received Westfall Construction began the pre-construction work adhering to all Idaho Department of Environmental Quality’s mandatory best practices guidelines as well as the terms of the biological assessment agreement. She said a lot has been accomplished in a short amount of time.

On September 21 the construction crew drove the huge excavator across the typically shallow east river channel and on to the island. The west channel de-watering process which Cerise referred to as a “real learning experience” began the next day. On that day the main channel of the Salmon River was running at approximately 950 cubic feet per second. She said it took twice the amount of material as anticipated to divert the water. She explained that by “material” she meant great big dry-bags filled with washed gravel. In addition to the bags very large, heavy eco blocks were used. Cerise said, “There was so much velocity in that river that setting even one barrier…that water would push it down the river so it had to be two deep at a minimum with levels of super sacks stacked on top.” She said even with all that, water still managed to go over the top in places.

She complimented Doug Westfall for his conscientious work in the water which is being very closely monitored. Compliments and thanks also went to Daniel Bertram of the Upper Salmon Basin Watershed Project (USBWP) for the loan of a turbidity monitor which keeps a log on any sediment disturbance occurring in the river. Another very helpful partner in the project is the local Idaho Fish and Game Department crew which has been on site doing any fish salvage necessary. Cerise said that at no cost to the city Fish and Game will stay with the project for electro shocking during the coffer dam work. Coffer dam work translates to removal of the original bridge abutments. Fish and Game will also be watching for any fish that might become entrapped during the abutments removal process. She said the Fish and Game Department and the USBWP are both providing a great service to the city.

Cerise said all the agency partners have been invited to come observe the work in progress and she extended the same invitation to all council members.

She said after resolving elevation inconsistencies in the engineered drawings the re-bar has been ordered. After transporting all needed materials to the east side. plans call for the deck on the old bridge to be removed making sure no debris falls in the river. That should take place the week of October 2nd. A four foot wide removable walking bridge for workers will be installed and the north and south ends of Island Park will be closed to the public due to all the construction activity and to avoid any liability issues.

The Bureau of Land Management is posting river entrances with river closure signs for the island’s west channel and all outfitters have been contacted. The west channel will be closed for the duration of construction. The City Council discussed the best ways to notify boaters of the closure and Councilman Russ Chinske warned the group about a tree he just recently encountered in the middle of the east channel.

As to a completion date Cerise said it is impossible to say for sure, considering the scope of the project and all the things that can happen along the way however; all work is expected to be completed by the end of December 2016.
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