"This is a lot of people for one tiny bridge," Clatsop County Board of Commissioners Chair Peter Huhtala told the crowd of roughly three dozen who assembled for Wednesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new span on Ziak-Gnat Creek Road in Knappa.
The group gathered to celebrate not only the newly rebuilt bridge but a unique public/private partnership benefitting local wildlife. In conjunction with the bridge project, overhead utility lines that injured and killed numerous birds were placed underground.
Clatsop County staff were joined by representatives of Pacific Power and CenturyLink utilities, Bergerson Construction, Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce, community members and Oregon Sen. Betsy Johnson and Rep. Deborah Boone.
"I want to thank everyone who was involved," said local resident Gary Ziak, who owns much of the tidal wetlands that make up the Ziak Wildlife Refuge on either side of Ziak-Gnat Creek Road. "It's a win-win situation."
Ziak and others had tried for several years to find a solution to the bird mortality problem. Along with resident swans, the refuge attracts ducks, geese, plovers, sandpipers, killdeers, purple martins and Vaux's swifts, but large numbers of birds were regularly injured or killed after flying into the overhead lines that ran along the roadway.
Earlier this year, when Clatsop County began planning for the reconstruction of the Ziak-Gnat Creek bridge, county officials suggested combining the bridge project with the relocation of the utility lines. Pacific Power and CenturyLink agreed to participate, and with some local assistance – Gary Ziak excavated 600 feet of trench with equipment donated by Martin Nygaard – the work was completed despite a narrow timeline.
Bergerson Construction, with assistance from Clatsop County Public Works, handled the bridge-reconstruction project. The job involved replacing the wooden pilings and bulkheads with steel fittings designed to better stand up to the tidal flows that pass under the bridge.