The Lincoln Street Bridge and Dam on the Arkansas River does a lot more than let traffic get across.
It lets fish and kayaks through. It allows pedestrians and bicyclists to mingle.
It is one of those engineering and recreational accomplishments that also might help the environment, officials say.
Much of the $15.5 million project has been in place for about two years now. But massive rainfall damaged part of an observation deck retaining wall near the bridge in August 2013, and by the time the re-engineering and repairs were completed this past fall, it was not the best weather to hold a project dedication ceremony.
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Finally, that ceremony will happen, at 1:30 p.m. Friday. The five-lane bridge is at Lincoln and McLean, just south of downtown Wichita. Traffic will be closed so a dedication stage can be set up on the bridge.
The project has been complex, said Gary Janzen, the city engineer who has overseen the work.
“It’s unlike anything anybody has done in this area,” he said.
The thinking that led to the project began with a problem: a deteriorating bridge that was built in 1970 and a dam that was tied into the bridge. The dam didn’t let kayaks or canoes pass under the bridge. Boaters had to get out of the river and re-enter the water on the other side of the bridge.
It was such a big project that preliminary design work began 12 years ago. For a while, funding was a problem, and the project resumed around 2007.
Officials decided that the smart thing to do for a replacement was to separate the dam from the bridge, Janzen said. Because the aquatic environment was involved, designers and builders had to work with agencies to make sure the environment was protected, he said.
Officials sought the public’s input, talking with all six district advisory boards and listening to people who used the river. The process led to the building of a boat pass. It would allow kayaks and canoes to pass under the bridge, around the dam and stay in the river.
Planners consulted with a University of Illinois hydraulics lab to make sure that the boat-pass design would be safe for boaters. The university lab used a scale model to simulate the conditions users would encounter.
If you look at the boat pass from above, it looks like a series of bowtie-shaped structures. The bowties control the flow. The boat pass opened around April 2013.
If people are uncomfortable using the boat pass, they can use a dock upstream or downstream from the bridge.
A fish ladder lines either side of the boat pass. It lets smaller fish climb their way upstream. It slows the current so the fish can pass.
It is the only fish ladder built in the state, said Jessica Mounts, district fisheries biologist with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. With the previous dam, fish were blocked, Mounts said.
Fish need to be able to migrate upstream to find food and habitat, she explained. Many fish live only a few years in the wild, “and they’re just susceptible to habitat loss,” she said.
They serve as food for larger creatures; they eat insects; they are a barometer for the health of the water.
“They are a very important part of the ecology,” Mounts said. Kansas is home to 140 species of fish, and many are listed as threatened or endangered.
The bridge and dam project also includes a series of walking paths and an expansive observation deck where people can sit or stand by the river.
“It is a great place for the public to view everything,” Janzen said.
Dondlinger Construction was the main contractor for the project.
Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or email@example.com.