Work crews began dumping rocks at the southern abutment of Fernbridge on the Ferndale side Monday to mitigate erosion and scouring caused by heavy rains this winter.
According to Caltrans District 1 public information officer Eli Rohl, over the next three weeks between 1,000 and 2,000 tons of rock will be built up on both the down and upstream sides of the riverbank.
“The contract amount is for $3 million,” he said.
According to the Caltrans District 1 Facebook page, Caltrans partnered with West Coast Contractors Inc. on the project.
Rohl said scouring — the erosion of soil around the bridge’s support structures — is common on bridges that touch water. The rocks will reduce the velocity of the water so less earth is washed downstream, he said.
“We’ve been looking at scouring at Fernbridge for a while,” Rohl said.
Humboldt County 1st District Supervisor Rex Bohn said he’s been in contact with Caltrans over the past few weeks because he’s received numerous calls from Ferndale residents concerned about the erosion following the most recent heavy rainstorms.
“That last storm rush took quite a lot of land out,” he said.
Between a half acre and an acre were lost during those storms, Bohn said. Rohl said Caltrans didn’t have an estimate for how much land was washed away.
Both Bohn and Ferndale city manager Jay Parrish thanked Caltrans for starting the project.
“We had a number of conversations with Caltrans, Supervisor Rex Bohn and a number of other people that were concerned with the riverbank moving toward the ocean,” Parrish said.
Rohl said there are no plans to disrupt traffic on Fernbridge while the work takes place.
“There’s no public access to the river at that location,” he said.
Adding the rock to the southern abutment of the bridge is only the first part of this project, Rohl said. Similar work must also take place on the bridge support column closest to Ferndale. The timeline for that part of the project will be determined when the river goes down and the flow slows, he said.
Rohl said there is no damage to the structure of the bridge itself so it is still safe to drive.
One day in January Caltrans closed state Route 211 at Fernbridge to vehicles due to the Eel River rising above flood stage and causing a hazard on the roadway on the Ferndale side.
“The next (rain) event could have been the one to cause the problem so we’re ecstatic,” Parrish said.
Bohn said he is happy to see the project underway.
“Fernbridge is such a historic bridge and it’s important to the community,” he said.
Access more information at facebook.com/caltransd1.
Hunter Cresswell can be reached at 707-441-0506.
Shaun Walker — The Times-Standard