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Historic Bridge Saved with Emergency Watershed Protection Program Assistance

Historic Bridge Saved with Emergency Watershed Protection Program Assistance

An historic stone arch bridge in Kansas was saved with assistance from the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program.

In the summer of 2007, the EWP Program and Cowley County (County), Kansas, proved to be a perfect fit. Starting in May, the County experienced one flood event after another. Then, in late June, a massive storm dropped over 20 inches of rain--60 percent of the County's average annual amount. The result was a 500-year flood that inflicted widespread damage to agricultural areas. Lives and livelihoods were affected, and rebuilding efforts were draining both public and private coffers.

"The Emergency Watershed Program assisted Cowley County in extending the life of a historic triple-span stone arch bridge and provided the effect of stretching local tax dollars needed to address other road issues," said Cowley County Commissioner Gary Wilson.

Administered by the NRCS, the EWP Program helps project sponsors implement emergency recovery measures to relieve imminent hazards to life and property created by a natural disaster that caused a sudden impairment to a watershed. NRCS is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Debris against Pudden Bridge left by massive rainstormIn the wake of the massive flood was a severe debris blockage on Grouse Creek that threatened the structural integrity of a century-old three-span stone arch county bridge, locally known as the Pudden Bridge. Listed on the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places, the bridge not only serves as a link between the east and west banks of the creek, but as a tourist attraction as well. If it were lost, its replacement cost would be about $1 million.

With exhausted financial resources, the County turned to NRCS for help. Kansas NRCS determined that the debris blockage was causing bank erosion around the bridge abutment. In the next flood event, or even with continued high flows, the bridge would likely be washed out or made unsafe for traffic. NRCS deemed the impairment eligible for EWP Program assistance and recommended immediate action to save the bridge.

"The historic stone arch bridge is one of several century-old structures that are included in annual tours of the county. We appreciate the opportunity to cooperate with NRCS toward the effort to preserve our heritage," Wilson continued.

Debris removed following cleanup ensuring Pudden Bridge safety.The County concurred with NRCS's conclusion and agreed to perform the work to clear the debris. Total cost of the project was less than $20,000. NRCS paid 75 percent and the County picked up the remaining portion and secured the necessary permits, and access to the site. Within 10 days of first requesting EWP Program assistance, the County had removed the threat to the bridge.

Visit your local NRCS office to learn more about natural resources conservation. The office is located at your local USDA Service Center (listed in the telephone book under United States Government or on the Internet at More information is also available on the Kansas Web site.