Efforts to repair a washed-out section of highway on the Standing Rock Reservation that claimed two lives in July have been hampered by the availability of materials and delays in getting a culvert built to replace the one claimed by erosion from heavy rains.
The 7-foot steel culvert on BIA Road 3, known locally as the Kenel Road, washed out July 9 after 7 inches of rain fell overnight. Two people from Mobridge, S.D., died when they drove into the chasm in the early morning hours. Trudy Peterson, 60, was going north to start a shift as a nurse at the Indian Health Services in Fort Yates. Jim VanderWal, 65, was heading south, hauling a daily load of mail to Mobridge from Bismarck.
The culvert will be replaced with a concrete one that has two 10-foot cells. It is being built in 30-foot sections, and the process is taking longer than expected, said Ron His Horse Is Thunder, the tribe’s director of transportation and planning. The company building the culvert could make only one section per day, and other orders were in place ahead of Standing Rock’s when the washout occurred.
The contractor doing the dirt work, Sharp Enterprises of Pierre, S.D., is having difficulty finding fill dirt for the project.
“It will be done by the end of November, is what we’re looking at,” His Horse Is Thunder said. That's about a month later than initially planned.
The culvert was bowing but structurally sound and had been identified for replacement seven years ago. It held together but fell victim to erosion brought on by the rains. A 30-foot gap was opened up in the highway above it.
About 565 vehicles traveled the highway daily before the washout, according to the most recent North Dakota Department of Transportation estimates. That traffic is being detoured around the washed-out portion, which is taking a toll on other roads.
“Because we’ve had a lot of rain, now those county gravel roads are starting to deteriorate,” His Horse Is Thunder said. The tribe has entered into an agreement with Corson County, S.D., to assist in replacing gravel on the detour roads, he said.
Replacement of the old culvert was bid in April and carried a price tag of $1.45 million. The original construction plan was to leave the culvert in place to allow the flow of water while a new culvert was placed. With the culvert gone, water will have to be diverted during the project.
Workers plan to lay the first piece of the new culvert on Oct. 21. Dirt work preparation is expected to start at least two weeks ahead of that, His Horse Is Thunder said.
Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com