Good news for residents of Canyon City, students and staff in Grant School District 3 and county residents: The Inland Street bridge over Canyon Creek will be repaired and lifted 2 feet higher to protect it from future flooding.
The solution emerged during the Grant County Court’s July 24 meeting when an unusually low engineering bid prompted the court to agree to split the out-of-pocket construction expenses with Canyon City. The upgraded bridge could be ready for traffic by Oct. 1, Mayor Steve Fischer told the court.
The 27-foot long two-lane bridge, located just upstream from the Grant Union track and football field, was closed when Canyon Creek topped the bridge during April flooding. Crews maintained watch over the bridge during the flood, pulling debris and eventually removing the pedestrian walkway attached to it.
The upstream Nugget Street bridge was reopened after an engineer was able to inspect it during low water, but a weight limit restriction prevents school buses from using it. The closing of Inland Street bridge has placed a hardship on the school district, restricting bus routes for getting children to Humbolt Elementary School.
The problem has lingered for years with no easy solution. Canyon City, with seven bridges, lacks the finances to repair the Inland Street bridge on its own. Fischer recalled a large grant to fix the bridge that required a $140,000 match the city did not have.
Fischer noted that during the 2011 flood, there was talk about the county taking ownership of Inland Street and the bridge, including a public comment by former Commissioner Boyd Britton.
“He’s not here now,” Grant County Judge Scott Myers told Fischer during the court meeting, adding that he had concerns about the county taking over liability and maintenance for the bridge.
When asked about a recent federal disaster declaration and the possibility that Federal Emergency Management Administration funding could cover the cost of the bridge repair, Fischer said his experience with federal assistance has been long delays and little production.
“It’s like a shell game,” he said.
Reasonable price spurs action
Past rough estimates to raise either the Nugget or Inland street bridges have typically topped $1 million, but Fischer presented the court with an engineer’s estimate to do so for just $76,500. This included engineering, bid assistance, oversight, construction contingency as well as legal and administrative costs.
Raising the bridge 2 feet will allow another 550 cubic feet of stream flow per second, said Fischer. According to Grant County Emergency Management Coordinator Ted Williams, the Canyon Creek channel is expected to safely handle 850 cubic feet per second, but the flow at Adam Road this April reached 1,150 cubic feet per second.
A key factor in the low engineer’s estimate was the $10,000 cost for a 30-ton crane to lift the bridge and then reset it after repairs were made. Bringing that large a crane to Grant County is typically expensive, but such a crane is currently at Malheur Lumber Co. for the torrefaction plant project and is idle some of the time, Fischer said.
Commissioner Jim Hamsher said he showed the estimate to an Oregon Department of Transportation official who suggested the county “jump on it.”
Grant County Roadmaster Alan Hickerson said the county could assist Canyon City by loaning a dump truck and an excavator and providing gravel and some labor.
Fischer said he appreciated the offer, but he also wanted the county to split the out-of-pocket expenses. He emphasized that the bridge project was not just a Canyon City interest — it was important to the school district.
Canyon City resident Garth Leighton asked why the court was just “kicking the can down the road.” The solution to Canyon Creek flooding problem is digging out the channel, he said.
The court was familiar with that proposal from past discussions, but they decided to act now to get the Inland Street bridge upgraded. Fischer agreed, saying the stream channel could be dug out later.
Commissioner Sam Palmer addressed a concern that if the court assisted Canyon City, other communities would want the same kind of help. He noted that this was a special circumstance, with flooding affecting schools.
Hamsher emphasized that residents were getting a lot of “bang for the bucks,” and Myers noted that the county was still protecting its road fund. The vote to split the costs with Canyon City was unanimous.