In the News
You may have seen articles in the Democrat-Gazette in the past week or two. The first article (http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2016/jun/21/court-ruling-spells-doom-for-old-span-2/#comments) was somewhat negative and talked of little hope, failing to focus on the possibilities that remain for this bridge. The second article, just two days later, seemed to restore some hope (http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2016/jun/23/hope-to-save-bridge-revived-at-clarendo/). The Arkansas Times also ran an article about this time (located at http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2016/06/21/plan-to-preserve-white-river-bridge-at-clarendon-falters).
Just to clarify some of that recent publicity, we'd like all of our fans and supporters to know what's going on and how you can assist.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USF&WS) has chosen to rely upon hydrology studies that should be updated before any decision to demolish the bridge is finalized. New ecological evidence suggests that keeping the historic bridge will not greatly affect the flow of the river since a significant portion of the berm to the western approach has already been removed and that water flow restored. Furthermore, the endangered (and therefore protected) rabbitsfoot mussel may be harmed in the bridge demolition process.
In the past two months US Geological Survey (USGS) officials have agreed that a re-examination and update of the old hydrology study has merit, and the USGS is willing to participate in any discussions related to science-based issues regarding these matters. Therefore, the Friends of the Bridge group is asking for new hydrology studies to be conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey before any further action is taken on demolishing the bridge. An updated study of the hydrology of the refuge is a reasonable approach, as it might produce data upon which a new, mutually beneficial option to save the bridge could emerge. We believe this is best for all concerned because if the flood flow is already corrected, if the endangered mussel may be further endangered by demolition, and if this bridge can be a literal bridge to economic development for the people of Eastern Arkansas, saving it will be a win-win situation for ALL stakeholders.
The Friends of the Bridge group is now mounting a campaign to urge the Arkansas Highway Commissioners and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to meet with officials at the US Geological Survey to initiate a re-examination of the original hydrological model. If there have been changes that could favorably impact keeping our bridge for recreational tourism uses, we should not be denied such an opportunity based upon outdated data.
To aid with these efforts, we have three action items you can participate in:
Write a letter and make phone calls to key AHTD and USF&WS officials, asking them to meet with USGS for the purpose of studying the hydrology flow and eco-system impact of removing vs. leaving the bridge in place.
Write letters and make phone calls to elected officials, asking them to apply pressure to achieve such a meeting between USGS, USF&WS, and ATHD officials for the purpose of studying the hydrology flow and eco-system impact of removing vs. leaving the bridge in place. Also emphasize to elected officials that this is a literal bridge to economic development for all of Eastern Arkansas.
Join "Friends of the Bridge" with your donation today. Should public outcry fail, we need funds for depositions, testimony, and filings in the lawsuit that we are mounting in order to help bring AHTD and USF&WS to the table to meet with USGS experts.
Your help is instrumental in a successful effort, so please get on board and ask your friends to do so as well! Time is of the essence, as the Highway Commission meets again on July 13, and it would be great if they have significant and positive input from the public toward keeping the bridge.
Be sure to keep all contact polite and gracious but insistent that there is a way to save the bridge and still benefit all stakeholders. The "Friends" will post talking points and a sample contact letter for snail mail contacts. We also plan to make some postcards available as quickly as possible. Watch for those updates, but don't hesitate to start calling or emailing with the information below:
Project Leader, Cache River National Wildlife Refuge
26320 Highway 33 South Augusta, AR 72006 870-347-2614
Note: If you get to speak with Mr. Weaver, be sure to congratulate him on being awarded the Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award! This is an honor to him for his 31-year career in conservation, and we are proud of his work and this deserving award.
Arkansas Highway Commissioners:
Contact all commissioners via email at http://www.arkansashighways.com/commission.aspx