Bridge goes up across Carson River | RecordCourier.com
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Bridge goes up across Carson River

by Linda Hiller

If you’re going to build a bridge across the Carson River, be prepared to jump through some county, state and federal regulation hoops, because even though your land might be yours by deed, everybody’s river runs through it.

On the River Tree Ranch, north of the Gardnerville Ranchos, a one-lane curved timber bridge is being built over the East Fork of the Carson River to meticulous specifications so ranch owner Tom Bruce can have access to 15 acres of his landlocked property.

There are only a handful of other private bridges over the Carson River, and one of the reasons might be the expense, he said.

“This costs around $500,000,” Lee said. “You have to be able to spend that kind of money to build it right. The southern white pine arches had to be brought in from Arkansas because that’s one of the few places where those are made.”

Walt Lee Construction Co. of Gardnerville is doing the work, building the bridge to Minden engineer Rob Anderson’s plans. Though the bridge will be finished, weather willing, in about two weeks, Anderson, the long-time owner of R.O. Anderson Engineering, said the initial steps toward building the bridge began some time ago.

“First, we had to have the preliminary design drawing done, and then we had to take it to all the different government offices for approval,” he said. “Between all the planning, engineering and waiting for permits, I’d say it took around 12 months.”

Anderson said the bridge team had to get a permit from the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection to enter the river with the building equipment, approval from the Division of State Lands, the federal Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a building permit from Douglas County.

This time three years ago, Valley residents were mopping up from the 1997 New Year’s Flood, one of the century’s worst. Since then, talk of doing anything on the Carson River – clean-up, bank repairs, planting willows, let alone building a private bridge – has been met with extreme caution.

n County is the gatekeeper. “We have to require that the plan goes through the entire FEMA flood plain process for approval,” said Douglas County Community Development Director Bob Nunes. “We have a regular application process (applicants) have to go through, and after they send it off to Washington and get all their permits and approvals, then we issue the building permit. We have to do this because, as flood plain administrators, we’re the gatekeeper for the process.”

Norm Denny, county building official, said the initial county review of the structural design of the River Tree Ranch bridge involved sending the plans off to a consultant engineer in Reno.

“I didn’t have a lot of experience with this particular type of structure, so I had the plans reviewed by a structural engineer,” Denny said. “It’s a curved timber bridge, otherwise called a glu-lam beam bridge. It’s a beautiful structure.”

Denny said that while the excavation was taking place for the 22-foot concrete columns which go far beneath the river’s banks, the county required a soils report, and since the actual construction began, around two months ago, county building inspectors have visited the project several times.

“We want to make sure the bridge doesn’t impede the flow of the river and we also want to make sure it doesn’t end up in the river,” he said.

n Beautiful structure. The bridge has a 175-foot clear span made of Douglas fir, Lee said, and two imported curved southern white pine arches on either side of the span. At either end of the bridge, the concrete approaches, or abutments, are on top of the 22-foot columns of concrete that go vertically into the soil and far below the river’s banks.

Lee, who grew up in the Carson Valley, said the reason for the extensive concrete work was to deal with future floods.

“The bridge is built so that if the water gets high and erodes the bank, it will actually erode around the abutment, and then can later be filled back in,” he said.

Lee said he wasn’t exactly sure what Bruce planned to do with the land over the bridge when the span was completed, but much of the rest of the ranch is growing alfalfa, he said. “It’s his private bridge, but we built it strong enough to carry a 10-yard concrete mixer,” Lee said.

“It’s been an interesting project and the owner has been excited with the design all along,” Anderson said.