From AP Reports

COLCORD (AP) – An archaeological dig for American Indian artifacts has led to a 5-year delay in replacing an old bridge in far eastern Oklahoma.

The effort to replace the nearly 80-year-old bridge over Spavinaw Creek northeast of Colcord has been held up ever since a grinding basin and several arrowheads were uncovered during design work in 2003.

 “This old bridge is in bad shape,” Delaware County Commissioner Dave Kendrick said. “We’ve been trying for five stinkin’ years to get it built. I have some Indian heritage myself. But you and I would not spend a quarter of a million dollars digging up those rocks. It’s just not profitable, plus the time that has been lost doing this.”

Partially funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the current $200,000 excavation has unearthed stone tools estimated to be between 2,000 to 8,000 years old, said Larry Haikey, an archaeologist from BIA’s Eastern Oklahoma Office in Muskogee.

The original cost of building the new bridge was set at $750,000, but Kendrick says that price will increase now because of inflation.

Haikey, who is providing technical assistance to the county, said the dig could be over by the middle of the month. That means construction on the BIA-funded bridge, which is in the Cherokee Nation, could begin in the spring.

 “Most of the articles they have found, you can’t tell they are anything but some old rock,” Kendrick said.

 “… If this was a burial ground and they were finding stuff just hand over fist, you or I or no one would want to go through there and ruin the history and the findings. But what they are finding, you can’t justify it.”

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation paid $15,500 for the first archaeological study on the bridge in 2003.

Since then, the county has struggled to find the funding for the current project, which is being paid for by BIA ($50,000) and ODOT ($150,000), Kendrick said.

The projects have been performed in compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act, which manages the historic resources of the country and cultural integrity of Indian tribes.