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Riverway Board learns of changes to Lone Rock Bridge construction plan
Lower Wisconsin River
Causeway at Lone Rock Bridge
CONSTRUCTION of the causeway that will block the south channel under the Lone Rock Bridge across the Wisconsin River is already underway.

LONE ROCK - The Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board (LWSRB) learned of significant changes to the construction operations plan for the new bridge at Lone Rock. News of a total closure of Highway 133 between Lone Rock and Avoca, and closure of the south navigation channel under the bridge, came to the board at their March 9 meeting.

“We have concluded that the only way to get girders across the span and to construct the south abutment of the bridge requires Highway 133 between Lone Rock and Avoca to be shut down from early June through Labor Day,” Jake Gregerson of Kramer North America told the board. “It also means we need to construct a causeway across the main navigation channel which will result in that passage down the river being closed to paddlers almost all summer.”

This differed greatly from the plan previously communicated to the board. That plan called for only “periodic closures” of Highway 133, and no closure of the main channel of the river. The exact route of the detour has not yet been announced on the project website.

Map of watercraft detours during Lone Rock Bridge construction
THIS MAP shows how the south navigation channel of the Wisconsin River under the Lone Rock bridge will be closed to motorized craft, and can be portaged by paddlers through the construction zone.

Gregerson said that there would be a ‘barge opening’ in the causeway, and that this might be opened at times during the summer if construction work shifts were away from the south abutment area. He said that opening and closing the structure is “very time consuming,” and so it would not be feasible to open it frequently.

Gregerson told the Riverway Board that the Otter Creek Boat Launch in Iowa County would remain open, but motorized craft would need to navigate into the north channel around Long Island. He said that paddlers could also take this route, or use a portage through the construction zone that will be established. He said the area would be marked with buoys.

The changes to the plan were announced to the board as a ‘fait accompli,’ that had already been approved by Richland County’s Town of Buena Vista Board, and Wisconsin DNR.

Riverway Board member Steve Wetter asked if the representatives of the construction firms had considered what might happen to the causeway in the event of ‘high water’ on the river.

“We’ve thought of that, and realize that we may have to rebuild certain portions of the causeway if it is eroded by high water,” Gregerson said. “We don’t anticipate that the entire causeway would erode, however.”

Barry Larson of HNTB Corporation discussed plans to notify Riverway users of the detour along the river in that stretch. To sign up for future project updates, e-mail Barry Larson at blarson@hntb,com.

“We’ve reached out to all the canoe livery companies, and posted signs at all the boat landings,” Larson explained.

Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway (FLOW) President Timm Zumm thanked the companies for giving those involved in the Riverway a heads-up about their change in plans, and asked that FLOW be included in any future updates to the plan.

“You should consider including the Iowa County Riverway Safety Text Alert system in your communication avenues about construction updates,” Zumm said. “Riverway users may not read signs, but most always have their phone with them.”

Director’s report

In his ‘Executive Director’s Report,’ Cupp addressed board confirmation hearings, and reports on various events and communications he’d undertaken since the last meeting.

“Randy Poelma had his hearing in front of a Wisconsin State Senate committee, and Ritchie Brown will have his hearing next week,” Cupp said. “I watched the hearing, the committee members asked a few questions and seemed happy to have individuals interested in serving on the board,”

Cupp said he had also attended the ‘Fete du Voyageur’ fundraising event in Prairie du Chien in February. He said that it was a wonderful meal, and that he believed it had been successful in raising funds for the June 16-17 ‘350th Anniversary of Marquette & Joliet’s Voyage of Discovery’ event planned in the city.

“The event was well-attended, and the artifacts, costumes and the meal were very good,” board member Dan Hillberry said. “The acoustics, however, were pretty bad and people kept talking even when speakers were making their presentations.”

Cupp also reported he had attended a planning meeting for the Sauk City Recreational Bridge. He said the latest rendering of the bridge design showed a replication of the old railroad bridge at the site.

“The recreational bridge is billed as a snowmobile bridge connecting to the Badger Munitions Plant trail and ultimately, the Elroy-Sparta Trail, but will be open to other recreational users as well,” Cupp explained. “The agreement to build the recreational bridge requires that it be built in order to be able to be returned to use as a railroad bridge in the future, as needed, and that is driving up the cost of the project.”

Cupp said that currently, construction of the recreational bridge is scheduled for 2024, and that the LWSRB will be involved in approving the design for rustication of the colors, and use of dark sky compliant lighting.

Cupp also reported that he had received a report from the Pattison Sand Company indicating the company had removed sand in November of 2022 from an area outside the Riverway boundary. He said the report indicated there are currently no plans to remove sand in 2023, either inside or outside of the Riverway boundary.

In other business

In other business the board:

• enjoyed a presentation of Frank Doerre’s photographs of native and non-native flowers from Effigy Mounds Lane and Frank’s Hill

• heard that the board’s first bi-monthly field trip in Mazomanie had been well-attended despite the cold weather and ice, and very educational

• heard that since the last meeting, Cupp had reissued an ongoing permit to the Nature Conservancy for work in the Spring Green area, and that it is the ‘longest standing’ management permit issued by the board

• heard that the Vernal (Spring) Equinox will occur at 4:24 p.m. on Monday, March 20, and that gatherings to mark the event would be held that evening, and the next morning at 6:30 a.m. at Frank’s Hill

• heard that the USGS gauge on the river at Muscoda had finally unfrozen, and was transmitting normal seasonal flows of the river.