Local agencies are pointing fingers over whose responsibility it is to clean up a growing logjam surrounding the old, partially collapsed Eichelberger Crossing Bridge and nothing is being done despite resident concerns.
Resident Curt Liles said he often travels across the Baylor Camp Road bridge, built just east of the old bridge and north of the Lake Waco Wetlands. The mess of logs and debris he sees around the old bridge is increasing with each storm that passes through Waco.
“It’s pretty nasty,” he said. “It’s rising fast and the debris (is) about double than before.”
A portion of the original Eichelberger bridge that spanned the North Bosque River for 89 years collapsed in March 2014. When officials pulled the collapsed portion out of the river, part of the old bridge was left standing for historical purposes. But the logjam has Liles concerned that it’s putting pressure on that old structure, upstream from the Baylor Camp Road bridge used for traffic.
Liles said he’s concerned the logs could push the old Eichelberger Crossing Bridge down and against the new bridge. He said he also is worried about the old bridge collapsing while people sit on it to fish.
“There’s always somebody on that thing fishing,” he said. “Any day, at any time of day, there’s somebody sitting on that bridge fishing. Let’s just say that thing gives way. . . . It’s a safety hazard.”
Heath McLane, Lake Waco manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the corps became aware of the logjam last week. However, he said, he doesn’t see it as an issue and the corps isn’t going to do anything about it. But they would be willing to partner with another agency in the cleanup, he said.
Precinct 4 County Commissioner Ben Perry said he’s concerned about the growing debris situation, but he believes the county is at the mercy of the corps.
Perry said the county intends to revitalize the remainder of the old Eichelberger Crossing bridge, as it falls under county responsibility. But the bridge needs to be checked for structural integrity, which his crew can’t do until the water is cleared, he said.
“What we’re going to do is as soon as the logjam is cleared, we’ll go in and test structural integrity of the (old) bridge. It may no longer be structurally sound for even pedestrian traffic,” he said. “But when that bridge collapsed last time, the corps monitored everything we did. It’s their body of water, and it is the city of Waco’s (new) bridge.”
Octavio Garza, with the city of Waco’s engineering department, said the city notified the corps of the logjam situation because the water feeds into Lake Waco.
“It’s not something the city of Waco’s public works department is engaging in,” Garza said of the logjam cleanup and pointing to the fact that the county owns the old structure.
Liles said he’s concerned about the Baylor Camp Road bridge flooding due to water backup if it were not able to flow under the new bridge because of the logs and debris.
“It’s a very well-known and depended-on travel artery,” he said.
“It’s just real simple. You have a new bridge there. You have an old bridge they don’t want to spend the money to demolish and half of it collapsed and you have the other half causing a logjam,” Garza said. “That water cannot drain properly down under that bridge.”
Perry said it’s a priority for him to keep the old bridge open for recreational activities, as long as it is safe.
“The bottom line is we have to be patient until the water recedes and the logjam removes itself naturally and then we will come in as soon as it’s safe enough for our engineers and re-evaluate and see if further damage has been done,” Perry said.