Eagle Creek Trail bridge repaired at last second

The Tish Creek Bridge has been damaged since winter 2015

Workers started work to repair the Tish Creek Bridge on Tuesday. February 28, 2017, (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Construction crews used a helicopter and were able to repair an Eagle Creek Trail bridge at the last second on Tuesday, officials said.

The 1960s steal and wood Tish Creek Bridge was damaged by winter weather in 2015. It’s part of a popular trail for hiking in the Columbia River Gorge. Tuesday marked the last day repairs could be done via helicopter until October.

Initial repairs were delayed in part because of the spotted owl (protected by the Endangered Species Act). The presence of spotted owls prevent using a helicopter to repair the bridge during certain times of the year. A helicopter can only be used for repairs in that area from October to March to protect foraging and breeding activities of the owls, according to wildlife officials.

And due to the challenging location of the bridge, a helicopter was the only way to repair it.

Workers were worried about Tuesday’s weather preventing the helicopter from completing bridge work, but everything turned out okay.

“We don’t usually work up here in the middle of the winter, and it’s real problematic with the weather,” said David Horrax with Columbia Helicopters.

Horrax explained the bridge replacement process saying, “We run a long 200-foot line and a 60-foot, 4-part line that will hook into 4 corners.”

Rachel Pawlitz with the U.S. Forest Service said the new bridge was dropped onto the abutments of the old bridge.

Park officials said the helicopter flew down Eagle Creek Canyon, removed the damaged bridge and set it down near the Eagle Creek Trailhead. Afterwards, it flew in the new bridge.

With the new $130,000 bridge installed, it’ll soon be ready for hiking traffic.

Although a wooden bridge would have been cheaper, officials preferred to go with the current bridge design for long-term sustainability. They couldn’t use treated wood over a stream, and a wooden structure’s life span is much lower at 15-20 years, according to Pawlitz.

Pawlitz said the bridge costs about one-third of Eagle Creek’s total fees collected every year.