Northern Michigan in Focus: Chestonia Bridge Project - Northern Michigan's News Leader

Northern Michigan in Focus: Chestonia Bridge Project

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The Antrim County Road Commission is working on a new Chestonia Bridge on Old State Road, but this project isn't just to help drivers.

As chief photojournalist Corey Adkins found out for this week's Northern Michigan in Focus, it's also helping fish and the Jordan River.

“We’re removing a couple of existing culverts and putting a 90 foot span bridge in,” says Dean Stewart, Grand River Construction.

The Jordan River Watershed is considered by some to be one of the most beautiful rivers in Northern Michigan.

But it was at the Chestonia Bridge, on Old State Road outside of Mancelona, where some say the bridge was creating a problem.

“Well, a number of years ago CRA did a conservation study on the Jordan River Watershed, and this site had 16 foot wide culverts that the river is being funneled through. And when we inventoried the site we found that fish passage was a problem here and that there were erosion issues as well, and that the structures were too small \for the width of the stream,” explains Kimberly Balke, Conservation Resource Alliance.

Basically, the size of the river is too big for the two culverts, so on the upstream side it would back the water up.

“Then being funneled and shot through those culverts and causing a big deep whirlpool at the downstream end, so it was creating stream bank erosion at the downstream end and causing scouring of the stream bottom, as well,” says Kimberly.

The culverts were a popular place for kayakers, but there was a problem because of the water backing up.

“It was changing the depth of the stream channel and the velocities here measured almost 12 ft. per second. And just for reference, at a stretch of river where we are not impacted by this crossing it's only like 3 ft. per second, so aquatic organisms and different species of fish likely couldn't pass through these culverts at all or at earlier stages of life,” explains Kimberly.

So it was decided the culverts had to come out and restore the river to its natural setting, but there was another problem.

 “Our surveyors found out that the culverts were sitting at least two feet above what should have been the natural stream bottom,” says Kimberly.

The culverts were removed, and there was some dredging.

And then some rip rap.

“Then, stage two would be digging the abutments and driving pile, then pouring concrete for each abutment, then setting beams,” explains Dean.

Now for the first time in decades, the river is flowing again, naturally.

“What's going on here is going to be a 90 foot span concrete bridge. Will have 11 foot wide vehicle lanes and 6 foot wide shoulders, so it will accommodate the natural width of the stream, as well as some room for flood plain,” says Kimberly.

The bridge should be done sometime in June.