Construction and installation of a new bridge and water line across Garden Creek on Third Street is moving along on schedule, the city’s mayor and the project contractors say.
The street and bridge should be open by this weekend, Challis Mayor Mike Barrett said. The new bridge is a prefabricated rectangular concrete structure, a bit more modern that what it’s replacing. That style of structure can reduce the velocity of water flowing through it, which results in better fish habitat, he said.
Work began in mid-July. The contractor, Bear Lake Construction from Bloomington, has 30 days to complete the in-stream work, according to the permit. That part of the project must be finished by Aug. 15 and the contractors expect to need only a short time after that to backfill the area and re-open the street to vehicles. The street won’t be paved until later in August, Barrett said, but paving won’t take long.
Garden Creek has some bull trout and steelhead in it, the mayor said, which are protected species. That’s why in-stream work could only occur in the 30-day period from July 15 to Aug. 15 when spawning season starts. Permits for the in-stream work were issued by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries division.
The bridge that is being replaced had been installed in 1993, Barrett said. It was damaged in the spring of 2017 when runoff was exceptionally high and the creek flooded because the culvert wasn’t big enough to handle all the water. The water backed up around the bridge causing damage and eroded parts of the street.
“We knew we had to fix it,” Barrett said. Federal funds are paying the lion’s share of the project cost because Custer County was declared a disaster area in spring 2017 following a winter with record snowfall. Two damaged bridges across Garden Creek qualified for federal money to pay for replacing them, he said, but some other weather-caused damage around Challis didn’t qualify.
It took some time to get permits for in-stream work in the creek and then bids were sought for the work, meaning the $290,000 project couldn’t get underway until this year, Barrett said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is covering 75 percent of the project cost, the state pays 15 percent and the city is responsible for 10 percent, Barrett said. The city’s share of the cost was budgeted to come out of the street fund.
Besides the bridge, a new city water line is being installed as part of the project. It’s a 6-inch PVC pipe housed in a 12-inch iron pipe for protection.
In the first week or so of work, the project experienced some minor delays, Barrett said, because of water diversion work. But it quickly got on track, he and Danny Cockrell of Bear Lake Construction, said. The contract calls for all work to be completed by Sept. 23, but Barrett expects an earlier finish date.
Third Street from a block off Main to its end at the hills remains closed until the project is completed, but access can be gained by using the alley behind the Tea Cup.
All of the residents on that stretch of the street were notified of the closure a few weeks before it occurred, the mayor said.