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Endangered Catfish Delays Work on Stepps Ford Bridge - KOAM TV 7

Endangered Catfish Delays Work on Stepps Ford Bridge

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OTTAWA COUNTY, OK - A small catfish, just about the size of your thumb, is creating big problems for construction on the Stepps Ford Bridge.

"This project I have encountered more roadblocks, if you want to call it that, than any other bridge project I've worked on,” says Ottawa County District 1 Commissioner District 1.

Clarke says it's been a headache replacing the almost one hundred year old bridge over the Neosho River because of impact from endangered species like the Neosho mucket and the Madtom catfish which spawns in the summer months.

“Because it's unique just to that river system, certainly if Neosho Madtoms began to decline or reduced in abundance, that's an indication that there could be other issues with the system as well. That could impact other aquatic organisms as well,” says U.S. Fish & Wildlife Biologist Ken Collins.

To fill in the rest of the piers and beams supporting the bridge, construction crews must build a roadway across the river, but a stop order has been issued to protect the fish, costing the county an additional 278,000 dollars.

“If you put the work road entirely across the river  than you block stream flow and Madtoms from moving up and down the river system,” says Collins.

The catfish not only stops work on the new bridge, it prevents the demolition of the old bridge, only half-way done, delaying funding for future projects down the line.

“Probably not the next bridge or the one behind it, but the bridges toward the end of our eight year plan will be impacted. There will be a delay in those being replaced,” says Clarke.

He says he knew of the delays the catfish would cause, but because of previous delays in getting materials for the beam work the project has been set back.

Thankfully Clarke says crews can still do some work in the meantime above water, like laying down the decking for the half already built.

He hopes the project will be complete by the end of the year. Funding for the project comes through their SERB account money, which is provided by state and federal dollars, for big county road and bridge improvement projects.

Clarke says when all is said and done the cost would come a little over 6 million dollars.  

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