Crews remove bridge at Bull Creek site of drownings; some concerned about environmental impact

Published: Sep. 7, 2020 at 11:01 AM CDT
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Crews removed a low-water bridge at the site of three drownings on Bull Creek in Taney County. But now, some are concerned about the harm done to the creek in the demolition process.

Many are glad the low water crossing at the site of one drowning this summer and two last summer has now been torn out. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirmed the removal is complete. But now, some say the creek has been severely damaged.

Loring Bullard, former director of the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, who is now chair of the Ozark Society Schoolcraft chapter, is outraged about the damage to the creek. He visited the site, by way of the creek bed, and we did the same today to see the sight firsthand. Bullard says it appears the excavator bulldozed a channel in the stream bed for about 400 yards downstream. The U.S. Corps of Engineers found in June, the bridge was out of compliance with its standards, and was obstructing the stream’s flow and fish passage.

Though Bullard is glad the bridge is gone, he’s not happy with how it was removed.

“It basically destroys habitat,” said Bullard. “It causes siltation, sedimentation. When I walked downstream of the bridge site, there was a lot of silt on the bottom. Bull Creek is typically a very clear stream. It was cloudy. When you walk on the bottom, you stir up sediment. Those are all negative effects on the stream ecosystem.”

“It’s going to affect fishing, it’s going to affect the looks of the creek, it’s going to affect travel on the creek,” says neighbor George Jones. He can notice a difference in the water about a half-mile downstream. “There’s more sediment now. It was clear last week, and now it’s clouded up and changed color.”

Bullard says the damage done to the creek is a violation of the Clean Water Act and will affect the smallest organisms in the creek, which are the basis of the food chain, and could in turn affect fish in the stream. “Now that they’ve done this, they’ve crossed a line,” Bullard says.

He is contacting the US. Army Corps of Engineers, which he believes should have overseen the bridge removal, as well as the Missouri departments of conservation and natural resources. “I’m expecting there to be action on this,” Bullard says.

As we reported last week, families of two kayakers killed on the creek filed two wrongful death lawsuits against the private landowner and contractor who built the bridge.

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