Candy Woodruff

Special to the Grove Sun

Commissioner Says Cherokee Bridge Repairs Could Land Him in Jail

July 1, 2011

GROVE – Delaware County Commissioner Doug Smith said Friday that he is fed up with regulations that hamper repair of a bridge that has washed out in his district and he is ready to go to jail to get it repaired.

The bridge located in Delaware County District #1 on Cherokee, north of Grove, was built by the WPA in 1939. It washed out in mid-June, due to heavy rains and years of heavy traffic.

“This bridge was never meant to handle all of the traffic it gets,” said Smith.

In spite of the fact that more than 5,000 people are impacted by the bridge outage, the State Historical Society is anxious to preserve the bridge because of its historical significance. “It was built by the WPA,” said Commissioner Bill Cornell. “That means we can’t touch it.”

Adding to Smith’s frustration is that the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife are now claiming that an endangered species could be affected by the bridge’s replacement. “They haven’t told me what species is endangered, they’re just claiming that there is one,” said Smith.

“I know people are frustrated. I’m frustrated too. I’m not lollygagging around here, we’re in a battle,” said Smith.

Smith, who has made an application for funding with both the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, said it is still going to be 30-45 days before those agencies make a determination, and that does not take into consideration the amount of time it might take to determine if there is an endangered wildlife species that would be at risk by re-building the bridge.

“I know this bridge is important to a lot of people. If I start re-building it without government approval, I could go to jail. Be that as it may, I may just have to go to jail,” said Smith.