GOLDEN - Urgently needed repairs are in progress on a bridge near milepost 33 off State Highway 14 west of Elk City, according to Idaho County officials who sought and received a disaster declaration from the county commission this month in order to streamline what is normally a complicated permit process.
Disaster management coordinator Jerry Zumalt said residents of a community on the far side of the South Fork Clearwater River have been without access to emergency services since 2012, when the Fall Creek (also known as Buckhorn) Bridge was closed to conventional vehicles. Zumalt said the county determined that without the partial renovation that began last Friday, Nov. 15, the bridge would be prone to a complete collapse during the runoff next spring.
Idaho County Road and Bridge supervisor Gene Meinen said the work will be finished by Thanksgiving if all goes according to schedule.
The cost exceeds $135,000, some of which may be covered by state or federal grants on account of the Oct. 22 disaster declaration. Even though disaster declarations can expedite the process, paperwork including expert assessments is required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Idaho Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's marine fisheries department -- the last of which was satisfied by a biologist's survey Nov. 14.
“We can’t just carte blanche go in that river and do what we need to do,” Zumalt said. “A disaster declaration gives the county a better opportunity to get it done quickly.”
With this bridge, the county had a “tight window with the location and weather,” Meinen said.