CR 267 bridge among casualties of spring flooding

CR 267 bridge before – looking north  Photo Courtesy of TxDOT – Bryan District Office

CR 267 after – looking south  Photo Courtesy of Milam County Precinct 2

By Curtis Chubb, Special to the Herald

On the morning of April 18, Precinct 2 Commissioner Donald Shuffield received a telephone call from a citizen - County Road 267 Bridge had been washed away by a flood overnight. Shuffield went out to inspect the bridge which is located about nine miles northeast of Cameron and reported, “It is gone.” 

Shuffield didn’t know when the CR 267 Bridge was first constructed. Neither did Richard Dodd whose family has land near the bridge; but Dodd did say that the bridge is more than 50 years old.

Dodd also said that the CR 267 Bridge had been damaged by floods in the past. The presence of a concrete low-water crossing just west of the bridge also suggests that the bridge had been unusable in the past.

You can see the bridge as it looked in October in the ‘Before’ photograph. It was a one-lane primarily-wooden bridge with a span of 83 feet.

Another important feature that you can see in the ‘Before’ photograph is that the bridge rises about 30 feet above a stream of water. That stream of water is Little Pond Creek.

The accompanying graph documents that on April 18, Little Pond Creek’s flow increased from 0 to near 20,000 cubic feet/second almost instantaneously. That is a phenomenal amount of water for a small creek; Little River near Cameron is running pretty high right now but only has a flow rate of 10,000 cubic feet/second.

The catastrophic effect of 20,000 cubic feet/second of water in Little Pond Creek can be seen in the ‘after’ photograph - CR 267 Bridge was literally wiped away.

Shuffield has been working on replacing the bridge since he found it gone. He first contacted the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) but was told that there was no state funding available.

Next, he had a bridge construction firm work-up a cost estimate for replacing the bridge and to draw-up plans that could be used for bidding. The construction firm estimated that it would cost $190,000 to build a replacement bridge with a load limit of 45,000 pounds; the old bridge’s limit was 17,500 pounds. 

The cost estimate was used by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to justify his April 22 declaration that Milam County was in a state of disaster. That declaration made Milam County eligible for financial aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 

On June 3, FEMA announced that Milam County was included in the major disaster area declared by President Barack Obama. Milam County Emergency Management Coordinator Susan Reinders has been assisting the commissioners during this process.

Milam County and FEMA representatives have already met and last week Shuffield was authorized to advertise for bids to replace the CR 267 Bridge. The deadline for submitting construction bids is July 8.

Shuffield has also been working with the Texas Historical Commission in case there is a need to determine if historical artifacts will be disturbed. 

An engineering firm has already been hired to perform a “hydrologic study” which is required because downstream land may be affected by the new CR 267 Bridge’s span being increased by 40 feet. The Department of Army Corps of Engineers will analyze the hydrologic study before making their decision about approving a permit for the new bridge.

There are 40 bridges in Shuffield’s Precinct 2 – while the other three Milam County precincts only have a total of 28 bridges according to TxDOT’s Bridge Survey. Yet the budgets for all four precincts are equal. When asked who would have paid to replace the CR 267 Bridge if federal funds were not available, Shuffield said, “Precinct 2.”