Approximately one week ago a bulldozer and an excavator were spotted on the banks of the
South Fork mainstem of the Eel River along Highway 162 in the Covelo area and many community members were concerned a clandestine operation was afoot threatening the sensitive environment of the Eel River watershed.
Cori Reed, the Chief of Public Information and Legislative Affairs for Caltrans District 1, assured the community that the heavy equipment is part of an ongoing Caltrans project to replace the bridge in the area with “an earthquake-resistant bridge structure capable of resisting a maximum credible earthquake.”
The project began after the bridge was “identified in the Structure Replacement and Improvement Needs (STRAIN) Report as a bridge with seismic vulnerability.” This program, mandated by the Governor and the state legislature “assesses and identifies the seismic safety needs of the State Highway System and provides improvements to the system where necessary.”
The equipment spotted on the banks of the river is part of ongoing efforts to “assess subsurface conditions,” Reed explained. “Two borings will be drilled next to existing piers into the riverbed. This investigation is needed to identify proper foundation upgrades for the upcoming…Bridge Replacement project,” Reed added.
Reed said equipment typical of the work associated with the Eel River Bridge Replacement Project includes: “a truck-mounted drill rig, or a track-mounted drill rig, water tender truck, drill crew cab, trailer, geologist/engineer vehicles, bulldozer, excavator, and other similar construction equipment.”
As to the environmental impact mitigation utilized to facilitate the project, Reed said “environmental reviews were completed in accordance with CEQA and NEPA.” Permits and consultations were provided by the National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S Army Corps of Engineers (Section 404), North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Section 401), and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Lake and Streambed Alteration 1602).
The geotechnical investigations will take place between June 15-October 15, 2021 (during low flow season) while being monitored by a biologist. When the investigation is complete, Reed said “the areas will be left in good condition” and the current drilling activities are expected to conclude by October 6th.”
Note: The first version of this post incorrectly referenced the wrong section of the Eel River. We’ve made corrections and apologize for our mistake.