PALMYRA, Mo. | A reduction in easement space when it comes time to construct a new bridge on County Road 402 in Marion County will prevent the project from being assessed a penalty for potentially disturbing endangered bats.
“Right now I have it at 100 feet for an easement,” said Matthew Walker of Poepping, Stone, Bach & Associates during Monday's meeting of the Marion County Commission at the courthouse in Palmyra. “I did have it at 135 feet to give room to work.”
Walker's decision to scale back the easement came after receiving an email from Bree McMurray, a threatened and endangered species specialist with the Missouri Department of Transportation.
According to research cited by McMurray it has been determined that there is an almost negligible impact to potential roosting habitat for Indiana and northern long-eared bats between zero and 100 feet from the edge of an existing road/bridge. Over 100 feet from a road/bridge and there is a higher chance that bats could be negatively impacted by the clearing of suitable summer roost habitat. Consequently, the clearing of summer bat roost habitat between 100 and 300 feet from a road/bridge opens the door to being required to pay a mitigation fee if the trees are removed at a time of year when bats are active.
Walker noted that not only would a mitigation fee be assessed for an easement of from 100 to 300 feet, it would “take more time to complete the (environmental) process.”
Walker added that when the easement is under 100 feet only a 14-day review process is necessary.
Presiding Commissioner David Lomax said the county is no stranger to having to work around bat habitat during its bridge projects.
“It is another situation like we had at Taylor where you have until March 31 to get these trees down,” he said.
Walker is optimistic that securing the necessary 100 feet of easement will not be a significant problem.
“Ideally they (nearby property owners) would just donate it and sign off on the easement because they are getting a new bridge,” he said.
The acquisition of needed property for the project is one of several steps that cannot begin until the commissioners give it their formal approval.
“These are preliminary drawings. We really haven't gotten the go-ahead from you guys to move forward with this design yet,” Walker said. “Once you guys are OK with the way it is drawn up, I can move forward with all the details.”
Walker estimated that he is now within two and three weeks of having all the environmental clearances done. “We will be able to acquire right-of-way at that point,” he said.
Larry Welch, eastern district commissioner, indicated he “wouldn't mind having a little time to go over this (preliminary design).” He added that a green light for the county's next bridge project may not be given until the bridge going in at Taylor is completed this spring.
The commissioners got their first glimpse at the County Road 402 bridge's tentative design during their Jan. 13 meeting.
While the current County Road 402 span, which is crossed by approximately 300 vehicles a day, remains open to traffic at the urging of MoDOT a 5-ton weight limit was implemented by the county last spring.
Following its 2019 inspection of Marion County's bridges the state ranked the 81-foot-long span, among a dozen found to be in poor condition.
The bridge, which crosses the South River, had significant rusting and deterioration of its floor beams, which are underneath the bridge deck. The bridge's southwest bearing also was found to have heavy cracking and deterioration.
It was at that time the state recommended the weight limit for the bridge, constructed in 1930, be reduced from 13 tons to 5 tons.
Before reducing the weight limit by 8 tons the commissioners had a local engineering company look over the bridge to see if there was a way it could be repaired so that it could retain its 13-ton weight limit until the structure could be replaced. What they found is that while the bridge could be fixed, the amount of money spent on the repairs would almost equal the estimated cost of a new span in that location.