Press-Republican

July 24, 2012

Otis Bridge saga nears end

Historic span to be moved foruse as fairgrounds footbridge

By LOHR McKINSTRY, Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — The long saga of what to do about the Otis Bridge is almost over.

The Essex County Board of Supervisors Public Works Committee recently OK’d an agreement among the county, State Department of Environmental Conservation, Adirondack Park Agency and State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to replace the 1911 span with a new bridge and to move the old one-lane span to the Essex County Fairgrounds.

Next, the measure gets a vote by the Ways and Means committee on Monday, July 30, with a final one by the full Board of Supervisors in Aug. 6. 

LETTER NEEDED

Without the agreement, the Otis Bridge project couldn’t proceed, Department of Public Works Superintendent Anthony LaVigne said.

The county had already given its own approval for the project, but “the letter of resolution confirms Essex County’s intent to relocate the old Otis Bridge to the Essex County Fairgrounds, where it will be displayed and used as a footbridge,” he said. “The letter is necessary to progress both the APA and DEC permits for the Otis Bridge project.”

The controversy over Otis Bridge has been rolling since 2005, when the county first announced it wanted to replace the historic bridge with a modern, two-lane span.

Although some county officials first said the replacement was so emergency vehicles, such as ambulances, could reach the handful of seasonal camps on the other side of the 3-ton-limit bridge, it was later revealed that owners of 800 acres of timber tracts on the other side had asked for a new bridge so log trucks could cross.

The county was successfully sued by nearby property owners Harry Gough and Margaret Bartley because a full state environmental statement had not been done for the project.

A compromise was later worked out in which the couple donated land to relocate Otis Lane from their side yard, so vehicles wouldn’t pass close to their home.

Relocating the road is expected to add about $25,000 to the estimated $250,000 project cost. The new bridge will have a 40-ton weight limit.

MINIMAL IMPACT

County Attorney Daniel Manning III said the work will have minimal environmental impact.

“The new bridge is proposed to be constructed on abutments placed behind the existing abutments that service the existing bridge, thereby eliminating the need to enter the stream for this work.

“Additional work also includes the relocation of Otis Lane, and the road will be constructed 150 feet to the north of the existing road, and then existing Otis Lane will be abandoned.”

The bridge spans the Boquet River, and the Board of Supervisors previously passed a negative-impact declaration following a full environmental study.

“So, at this time, the only environmental impacts that we see are some noise associated with construction,” Manning said, and “some disturbance to the water but very little. I believe that is it.

“It is my recommendation that we pass a resolution making a determination that there is no negative impact on the environment.”

Bartley, who is now the Elizabethtown town supervisor, has abstained from voting on the project at county meetings.

READY TO GO

LaVigne said it should not be long now before there’s a new Otis Bridge.

“The deck for Otis Bridge is in our shop yard in Lewis. The steel is completed and will be delivered to the site when needed.”

Another bridge, the Amy Hill Bridge on Amy Hill Road In Crown Point, is being replaced now. LaVigne said the culvert-bridge there was washed out during floods last August, and he couldn’t work on it until now.

Email Lohr McKinstry:

lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com