Under the bridge

GOE diver Aaron Alloway looks for debris under the County Highway M/F bridge spanning the Rock River in Indianford. While the work was completed Aug. 24, an underwater inspection summary was released by GOE and the Rock-Koshkonong Lake District (RKLD) on Sept. 9. Survey results are expected to be among items discussed at the next RKLD meeting scheduled for Sept. 19.

The Rock-Koshkonong Lake District (RKLD) has released a report completed by GOE International, LLC, summarizing details about debris found in the Rock River underneath the County Highway M/F bridge in Indianford.

The debris was found after a GOE three-man dive team from Davenport, Iowa, explored the river basin underneath the bridge on Aug. 24. The team was hired at a cost of $3,000 by RKLD, the district’s chairman Al Sweeney recently told Adam’s Publishing Group. The riverbed survey represented a portion of work completed in August, at which time the team also helped with maintenance and repairs at the Indianford Dam.

The team was asked to explore the riverbed under the bridge after area residents alerted RKLD board members that they had noticed debris falling from the bridge into the river while work on the bridge was being performed last year. Board members thought it would be logical, Sweeney said, to investigate the concerns while the team was on site to fix the dam.

In a two-page summary, presented in the form of a letter and released to RKLD on Sept. 9, GOE Corporate Operations Manager Rich Coppola, Jr., outlined the company’s “scope of work” and “summary” as they pertained to the “underwater riverbed survey report” produced by his company.

Coppola defined the scope of work as a “visual underwater inspection/survey of the riverbed between the west and east abutments and between the piers (of the bridge spanning the Rock River).”

Within the summary, Coppola noted that the riverbed between the west and east banks is predominantly covered with rubble, including embedded rebar, ranging in density from approximately 50% coverage at the west bank to 100% at the east bank.

The report documents the finding of steel debris, defined as 10-foot lengths of “C-Channel and angle iron.”

Concrete rubble under the center of the bridge ranges in size from 4- to 9-feet in length, “with apparent piling laying on their sides,” the report states.

Under the bridge’s east side, concrete rubble ranges in size from 3- to 14-inches along with a concrete slab measuring 4-feet long and 3-feet wide with protruding rebar, the report notes.

Responding to emailed questions, Sweeney wrote that RKLD plans to “ask for support from the DNR (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources) to convince WisDOT (Wisconsin Department of Transportation) to take action and require the contractor to remove debris from the river.”

Sweeney said RKLD is planning to invite representatives from both DNR and WisDOT to its next monthly meeting, scheduled for Sept. 19.

When asked if he thought the debris found in the river would fit with the “minimal debris” standard as defined by DNR, Sweeney wrote: “I don’t know what that subjective term means to a contractor that dropped debris in the river.”

According to DNR Environmental Analysis Specialist Shelley Warwick, the minimal debris standard was developed in response to safety concerns involved with removing road debris from bridges. The standard allows for some debris to fall into the river, she said.

Bridge projects can also have a “no debris” standard, meaning that no debris can be left in the river, she said.

During a telephone interview in August, Warwick said to determine the standard, DNR, WisDOT and project engineers look at issues of safety asking: “How do we get the debris captured? What’s reasonable in terms of safety?”

In August, Warwick said DNR was investigating the scope of standards that were in place for the bridge project in Indianford. She said she was unaware of which type of standards had been developed with project contractor Black River Falls-based Lunda Construction.

Sweeney said RKLD would be looking to the contractor for removal of the debris.

“We will need the help of the state agency that has the enforcement powers to do so. RKLD doesn’t have the resources for removal nor should we ask the electors to pay for it,” Sweeney wrote.

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