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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Long-delayed Red Bud bridge project underway

Friday, June 29, 2012

Work is underway to replace the South Fork River bridge on Red Bud Road, north of Moko. The old bridge caved in during April 2011 flooding. With the approval of FEMA, the new bridge will sit on concrete piers, instead of drainage tiles, allowing more water to pass through, during times the river is high. As a result, the bridge should be under water less frequently, and motorists should have safer passage when snow or ice is present. Photo by Richard Irby [Order this photo]
While most of us are talking about the drought and what it is doing to our lawns, gardens and pastures, Judge Charles Willett still has water -- the April 2011 flood -- on his mind.

"I can't even tell you how many repairs we had to do because of the flooding, but we're finally down to our last FEMA project," Judge Willett told The News.

A low water bridge on Red Bud Road caved in when the South Fork River was raging out of its banks in April of 2011. While other low water bridges or concrete slabs were repaired or replaced months ago, work on the bridge north of Moko has been on hold.

"We can get FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) reimbursement only if we repair damage back to exactly what was there before," Willett said. "They don't pay for new construction to improve something. They will only reimburse for repairs."

In the case of the bridge on Red Bud Road, the judge decided to ask FEMA for an exception -- permission to build an improved bridge, because of its unique location.

The bridge is located at the bottom of a big valley. Because it is in such a low spot, the river often covers it. In the winter, cars driving across pick up ice and slush on the wet bridge and deposit it as they go up the hills on either side, creating icy conditions that the road department often has to salt.

After obtaining a hydraulics study from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, Willett asked FEMA to approve a change in the bridge repair, which would improve traffic safety and make the bridge last longer.

FEMA eventually approved the exception, allowing a change in the bridge design and, in early May, Seagrave Construction of Maynard, Ark. ,tore out the old bridge, which was barely usable because of the flood damage. It then began work to pour a system of concrete piers that will raise the bridge three or four feet above the river. Instead of the drainage tiles that were under the old bridge, the replacement bridge is designed so that the space between the piers will serve as "boxes" for the water to flow through, after the top of the bridge is completed.

"The new bridge is a little higher than before, and more water will go through the boxes than the tiles. So, the bridge should remain dry 80 to 85 percent of the time," Willett said. "That means the bridge will last longer, and it won't be as dangerous for people to get up the hills in the winter."

The 145 foot bridge should be completed by the end of the month.

According to Emergency Management Director Darrell Zimmer, the 2011 flood caused more than $1 million in damage to county roads and bridges. FEMA reimbursed 75 percent of repair costs and the state reimbursed 12 1/2 percent, reducing the county's actual cost to 12 1/2 percent of the total.

Other Bridge Projects

In May, Fulton County Quorum Court allocated $10,690 from the bridge fund to pay for two other bridges which were also recently repaired. A low water bridge on Road Runner Road, between Pickren Hill and Vidette, caved in and had to be replaced. A bridge on Union Hill Road, southeast of Mammoth Spring, needed repair when the top caved in.

War on weeds

The jury is still out on a road department experiment to try to cut costs associated with mowing along county roads.

A national company, Natur Chem, sprayed 40 miles of shoulders along black top roads with a chemical designed to stop weed growth.

"It's a chemical that is supposed to kill weeds, and it's supposed to be like a lawn when they get done," Judge Willett told Quorum Court in seeking $2,154 to pay for the first spraying.

If it works, crews will spend less time and significantly reduce the amount of fuel used in bush hogging, so savings could be significant.

In a recent inspection, Natur Chem found more weeds than it expected, but it is still confident it can produce results.

"They said the weeds were already growing and were too high when they sprayed the first time," Judge Willett said. "They are going to spray again to see if they can get the job done."

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