First, the good news: The Plantation Island Bridge is structurally sound, according to an engineer hired by the Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands, which owns the bridge.
That bad news is that the bridge has been sitting on the Western Idaho Fairgrounds since last spring, when the foundation removed it to avoid losing it in the river’s heavy flooding.
The bridge was a popular link on the Boise River Greenbelt. It spanned the river’s south channel between the west end of Plantation Island and the Garden City side of the river near the northeast corner of the fairgrounds. From there, the Greenbelt runs about 500 feet southeast across the island. Another bridge connects the path to the north side of the river just south of the Plantation Golf Course.
The concrete abutments that the bridge attached to on either side of the south channel survived the flooding, but water washed away cavities underneath them, said Brian McDevitt, a member of the foundation’s board of directors.
Those voids must be filled in, and the riverbanks, which also eroded, must be rebuilt before putting the bridge can be put back in place, McDevitt said.
The Greenbelt path on the bridge’s east side also needs repair, foundation Executive Director Jan Johns said.
The foundation expects all of the repairs to cost about $200,000. It’s asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay that bill. McDevitt said FEMA is interested in the bridge because it’s an important bicycle and foot route.
McDevitt said the request is working its way through FEMA’s authorization process.
The foundation hopes to put the bridge back in place and open it this spring, McDevitt said, but that schedule depends on FEMA’s support. If FEMA says no, he said, the foundation will have to rely on private donations and, possibly, some money from state or local governments. In that scenario, it could take two to three years to reinstall the bridge, he said.