Officials Move Forward with Removal of 750 Tons of Historic Debris in American River

Placer County is gearing up to tackle a decades-old issue — the remnants of a bridge that have cluttered the American River for over half a century.

The Placer County Board of Supervisors recently greenlit a contract with Dokken Engineering of Folsom, engaging them for environmental consulting services to devise a plan to clear away the debris from the state Route 49 bridge. The 750 tons of concrete and metal has been a safety hazard and an eyesore since the bridge’s collapse following the Hell Hole Dam breach in 1964.

The decision to leave the bridge debris in the river was initially made under the assumption that the Auburn Dam’s construction would submerge the remnants. The dam project never came to fruition, leaving the debris exposed and a concern for both environmentalists and safety officials.

“This project is a true environmental remediation project,” said senior civil engineer Cheyenne Toney. “We’ve worked with the Protect American River Canyons group to obtain legislative action for state funding, and we’re pleased to be in a position to lead the removal of this debris that has been a safety concern for a long period of time.”

The $901,703 contract with Dokken Engineering will not only aid in designing the debris removal strategy but also facilitate the necessary permits and ensure the river’s ecological integrity is preserved throughout the process.

Funded by an $8 million allocation from Caltrans to the county in February 2023, this project marks a significant milestone in addressing long-standing environmental and safety concerns associated with the American River. The clean-up operation is scheduled to kick off in 2026, promising to restore a part of the river back to its natural state and remove a hazard that has lingered for far too long.

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