BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY
TRAVERSE CITY — Three area environmental groups have signed onto a proposed replacement for the Cass Road bridge that none really like and one township official called "environmentally deficient."
The Watershed Center-Grand Traverse, Michigan Land Use Institute, and Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council signed a letter supporting the 'preferred alternative" of a multi-agency committee to cross the 60-foot-wide river with a 100-foot long bridge span.
Officials with all three local groups said they would rather see more spans to better open the river corridor to fish and wildlife passage, as well as trails, but the proposal is an improvement over the current structure.
"We are going from nothing to something that is much better," said Andy Knott, executive director of the Watershed Center Grand Traverse. "Would we like to see it bigger? Yes."
But Knott doubts state or federal agencies will require the Grand Traverse County Road Commission to widen the span as the project goes through the formal environmental review process.
The Dam Implementation Team, the multi-agency committee that oversees dam removal on the Boardman River, initially considered spanning the river's entire flood plain with five, 100-foot-long elevated sections supported by piers and estimated to cost about $9.7 million, said Mary Gillis, Grand Traverse County Road Commission manager.
The group also considered an 80-foot-wide arched culvert over the roughly 60-foot wide river. The committee ultimately rejected both.
What the committee calls its "preferred alternative" is a single, 100-foot wide span over the river with two 65-foot end spans under which the ground slopes up from the bridge supports to meet the road. There is no detailed cost estimate for the proposal, Gillis said.
Environmentalists said they can accept the limited open span, but would like to see it wider. So would Chuck Korn, the Garfield Township supervisor who wants the road commission to consider rejuvenating last decade's Hartman-Hammond bridge proposal instead.
"A hundred feet wide is not enough to accommodate a return to the river's natural state," Korn said. "If we are going to do it there, we need to do it a little better."