A stop-work order has been issued on Stepps Ford bridge in Ottawa County, Oklahoma because construction methods might be damaging the habitat of the endangered madtom catfish.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service has expressed two major concerns with the construction. First and foremost, the original permit was for a five-span bridge and the current design is for a seven-span bridge. The increased length makes it necessary for two more sets of piers.
The contractor also had planed to build a cofferdam (a wall to keep water out) around the pier and pump the water out for a dry work area. Fish and Wildlife says dewatering around the piers could completely wipe out the madtom catfish population in the area.
The contractor will now have to sit down with Fish and Wildlife to form a new plan of construction for the bridge.
There are methods that can be used without harming the endangered fish. One method is to drill the hole for the piers in the water, insert casements and pump water out of the casements prior to pouring concrete.