New Bridges Improve Public Safety, Water Quality, and Fish Habitat

(JACKSON CO.) – The USDA Forest Service recently completed the construction of two bridges in Jackson County near the Maumee Scout Reservation that the county has assumed ownership of.  

One bridge is located on Squirrel Town Road and the other on Polk Patch Road.  

The goal of these cooperative projects is to improve transportation in Jackson County while also improving access to the upper reaches of two separate creeks for fish and other aquatic creatures that were blocked by the low water crossings that the bridges replaced.  

This work will also improve the water quality of these tributaries which are in the Salt Creek watershed. 

The construction phase began in 2018 involved the removal of two low water crossings including old bridge abutments, realignment of the road section and construction of the two bridges and their approaches.  

Through an agreement with the Forest Service, Jackson County assumes ownership of the two bridges and approaches, acquires rights-of-way, will provide required Department of Transportation inspections, and will provide oversight and maintenance of the bridges and approaches.

Jackson County Highway Superintendent Jerry Ault

According to Jackson County Highway Superintendent Jerry Ault, “These two bridges will be better for traffic and we will not have to go out and repair the road after a heavy rain such as before with the low water crossing.”

Both project sites are within the boundaries of the Hoosier National Forest.  

Forest Service staff identified these areas for stream restoration because both structures were being undercut by high water flows and were contributing to extreme bank erosion. In addition, unnatural sediment deposits were occurring near the structures because of the restricted flows.  

Many of Indiana’s native stream fishes need to move upstream to complete certain parts of their life cycle. This need to move upstream may be for spawning requirements, feeding, or other habitat needs.  Sampling via electrofishing in 2015 and 2016 showed differences in the fish communities above and below both structures. 

Forest Supervisor Mike Chaveas

According to Forest Supervisor Mike Chaveas, “The replacement of the low water crossings by bridges spanning the streams makes these roads safer for drivers and restores the streams to healthier conditions for fish and other aquatic organisms while improving the water quality in these creeks and downstream.”