Kempsey Shire Council have adapted their ongoing project to repair and rebuild bridges following the November bushfires in response to the recent heavy rainfall.
Installation of a temporary bridge at Butlers Bridge on Warbro Brook Road, previously scheduled for March, is now set to be the next bridge repair project for Council.
Timber for the temporary structure will be sourced from the old Turners Flat bridge. As a result, the need for conditions that allow the removal of those materials will dictate the exact timing of the works.
A large number of timber bridges were damaged or destroyed as a result of last year’s bushfire emergency, leaving Council with a significant challenge.
Overall, five bridges were damaged and six destroyed in the upriver area. When combined with the ongoing maintenance for the 167 bridges across the shire as well as bridge construction projects already underway, the scale of the task faced by council bridge crews required a clear prioritisation process.
Council’s Director of Operations and Planning, Robert Fish, said in the immediate aftermath of the emergency, Council’s staff attended to urgent repairs of fire damaged bridges as well as road clearing.
“Staff worked tirelessly during and following the fires working alongside qualified arborists and tree removal companies to ensure that roads were cleared and safe for vehicles to access. 15 kilometres of Armidale Road was cleared,” Mr Fish said.
Recognising the importance of all our bridges to the community, the work on the bridges was prioritised in a manner comparable to a hospital triage system, weighing competing urgencies to determine an order of priority, while still recognising the importance of every bridge.
“The first priority went to providing access to areas requiring immediate access as a part of fire response,” said Mr Fish.
“When staff inspected bridges, some required urgent repairs or temporary access measures so Essential Energy trucks could restore power to properties.”
Once this work was completed, the remaining bridges were prioritised on the basis of availability of alternate access points, the scale of repair work required, access to the necessary materials and the size of the impact on the community.
“A lot of work has been achieved in a relatively short time,” said Mr Fish.
“Council has completed repairs to Taits Bridge on Willi Willi Road, Lemon Tree Gully Bridge on Warbro Brook Road and Brassils Bridge on Brassils Creek Road. Temporary side tracks are also in place at Harrys Gully Bridge, Carrai Road, and Lewis Creek Bridge, Toms Gully Road.”
Further repair work is nearing completion for Mines Bridge on Mines Road and Kyles Bridge on Toms Gully Road will be repaired following the temporary bridge installation for Butlers Bridge.
Some bridges require replacement as they were destroyed. In these cases, funding is being sought for a replacement bridge under a natural disaster claim, requiring Council to work in partnership with other government bodies.
Mr Fish said Council is currently developing a detailed report for Transport for NSW for the six bridges that were destroyed. The aim is to deliver more durable bridges with lower maintenance needs by installing concrete structures.
“Council is seeking approval for the replacement of these bridges under natural disaster provisions. Pending approval, we anticipate that work on rebuilding these bridges will occur throughout 2020.”