Two divers braved cold water and strong currents of the Columbia River on Tuesday morning to find out what damage, if any, the highest runoff in 40 years had wrought on the Old Trail Bridge.
Using strong life lines and head-mounted cameras, divers from Castlegar’s Northern Underwater Systems inspected all three bridge piers underwater to provide video for City of Trail staff to give them an idea if the piers had suffered damage in the last year.
The city has had the piers inspected each year when it was open, said city engineering technician Warren Proulx, but stopped when the bridge was closed to traffic two years ago.
Because of the high river flows last year Proulx said he was concerned about the condition of the piers under the water. So the city contracted the divers to record their condition to see if there was any scouring or damage to the piers.
“River flows were extremely high, the highest in 40 years,” he said. “And an old structure like this, we want to keep an eye on it. But it’s not going to fall over, it is anchored on both sides.”
Any findings will be taken to city council if the bridge does need some repair.
“You can’t speculate if that happens, but you have to be prepared if there is damage and find out what to do about it,” Proulx said.
The main threat lies with the sewer line crossing the bridge, an interceptor line for the regional sewer system.
If there was anything to go wrong with the piers, there could be a situation where that line could break and it would disrupt service and create a costly repair, said Proulx.
The current was extremely strong and after less than two hours 20 feet down underwater the divers were done for the day.