(KMOV.com) – Major bridge construction west of St. Louis has led to a surprising discovery, endangered mussels.
The Bend River Bridge on the south side of Pacific in Franklin County is set to come down. But the discovery of endangered mussels almost forced the new bridge to be built in a different location at a much higher cost. The bridge repair was already estimated to be $5 million.
Franklin County has worked for years to secure the funds to build a replacement for their old bridge. A standard environmental impact study found two large beds of inhabited mussels, included some endangered species. One of the beds is within 25 feet of pylons for the new bridge. If the bed were any closer, bridge plans would have to be changed.
"They're telling us we can't impact those mussel beds and we have to work around them and determine what kind of construction processes we have to use to make sure we don't impact those beds," said Joe Feldmann of the Franklin Co. Highway Administrator.
Since the mussel beds extend beneath the old bridge, demolishing the old bridge is difficult.
“Normally we would drop [the bridge] into the water and fish the pieces out of the river. Obviously we can't do that because the mussel beds are right underneath the old bridge," said Feldmann.
Another possibility is to cut the bridge up piece by piece, but that would drive up the cost of the project. The highway administrator is considering turning the bridge into a pedestrian bridge. Construction should have started this year, but the mussel beds have pushed plans back until next spring.