Dismantling of the old Kawkawa Lake Bridge is scheduled to begin on Aug. 8.
Neelco Construction has already removed some non-structural pieces including the sidewalk, asphalt surface and part of the railing. However, the next phase must be completed during the “fish window,” when crews are able to work in the Coquihalla River without harming salmon, sturgeon and trout runs. The water level also needs to drop significantly before then.
“Right now we’re scheduling about three weeks to do it,” said Brian Lee, Neelco’s site project manager. “We need to put some scaffolding into the river to support the main span so we can take the overhead trusses off. It’s kind of a slow process and that includes all the piling that has to come out of the river.”
The bridge is considered both a historical landmark and tourist attraction because it was featured in the movie First Blood, which launched the Rambo series.
Despite a significant effort by a small committee to save the bridge, town manager Earl Rowe said safety concerns prompted the district’s decision to tear it down. High creosote levels in the wood can cause environmental damage when the hazardous substance seeps during the summer. The new structure is also wider and higher, reducing flood risks and allowing vehicles to pass easier.
“It’s age meant you couldn’t do major repairs to it in an economic fashion that would extend the life of the bridge,” said Rowe. “I received a detailed note from the Department of Fisheries saying that under no circumstances would they grant us the permit to build a new bridge without the commitment that the old one was coming off the river.”
Neelco is expected to use the wood in construction sites where creosote contamination is not a concern. Until needed, the creosote-soaked timbers will be stored by the company in Chilliwack, at no further liability to the District of Hope.
The company has also agreed to preserve several pieces of the bridge that were clearly visible in the Rambo film, including steel guard rails, tin facia strips and a small log on the upper span approach.