Endangered mussel species have been found near the site of the proposed Bend Road bridge replacement project, which could slow down efforts and raise costs.
An environmental consultant conducting the mussel survey at the site finds that there are apparently some “very impressive mussels” in the area, Franklin County Highway Administrator Joe Feldmann announced Tuesday.
“There were numerous beds in the area,” Feldmann said. “There were like 21 species of mussels, and three of them are endangered.”
The consultant, SCI of Union, conducted its investigation last week, and the county is still waiting on a full report. Since the report was preliminary, Feldmann did not know what specific mussel species were found at the site.
The Bend Road bridge crosses the Meramec River in eastern Franklin County.
It is unclear if the findings will slow down the bridge replacement. Feldmann has said he would like the project to start next spring and be complete in 2016.
“We have to determine how we can prepare the project so we don’t disturb these beds,” Feldmann said.
First District Commissioner Tim Brinker asked Feldmann if it would be possible to build the bridge and not adversely affect the federally protected mussels.
Feldmann said that was possible but added that it is unclear if there will be extra costs to mitigate the mussel beds.
Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer directed Feldmann to email the East-West Gateway Council of Governments in St. Louis to let the agency know the status of the project.
Griesheimer said the project “may be slowed down a little bit” but, “We’re going to move forward.”
East-West Gateway, a regional transportation planning agency that allocates federal money, gave preliminary approval to the Bend Road bridge replacement project recently.
It gave preliminarly approval to $3.46 million in federal funds, and the county would provide a construction funding match of more than $1 million. Griesheimer said final approval of the funds should come at the July East-West Gateway meeting.
The bridge is about 100 years old and recently had to undergo repairs after county officials said there were safety and liability concerns.
The county closed the bridge in November over the concerns but reopened it in March to a 12-ton weight limit after repairs.
The Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requested the mussel survey be conducted to minimize impacts on possible mussel resources.
The cost of the mussel survey is $18,600, according to a contract approved by the county commission in December.