Tribal officials and employees gathered at the Grand Casino Hotel & Resort to open a new steel truss bridge at the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. Vice-Chairman Linda Capps was joined by Tribal Legislator David Barrett and employees from the Grand Casino Hotel & Resort, Grand Travel Plaza, housekeeping, cement batch plant, and roads and construction departments.

Citizen Potawatomi Nation Vice Chairman Linda Capps, other tribal officials and employees cut the ribbon on the new Grand Casino Hotel Resort and Grand Travel Plaza bridge.

The opening completed a huge infrastructure undertaking for the Nation, which stemmed from the 2019 spring storm season that saw record rainfall in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Climatological Survey noted, “Tornadoes and flooding battled it out for Oklahoma’s top weather headline during May 2019, with both combatants bringing mayhem and misery to the state.”

Pottawatomie County had its share of such weather; Governor Kevin Stitt declared all of the state’s 77 counties in a state of emergency at some point during the month. At CPN, the impact was most evident along the waterways that border and bisect Tribal jurisdiction.

Deer Creek, which drains from Wes Watkins Reservoir located west of McLoud, runs by the Grand Casino Hotel & Resort complex. The creek borders the Grand’s north parking and hems in the Travel Plaza, but the swollen reservoir resulted in high, swift moving water downstream, which washed out the existing low-water crossing behind some of the Nation’s most frequented enterprises.

Tribal Environmental and Roads Department Director Art Muller received a call about the washout, and he sought a quick solution to reopen the creek crossing before the end of the year.

This bridge is based on a design like others that are planned for Hardesty and Harrison roads near the CPN’s FireLake complex.

A few days after the May 22 washout, construction work began on the new bridge. First, workers drove foundation pillars at least 40 feet into the ground, as measured from the water line, to ensure only something as extreme as a thousand-year flood could result in another washout.

“We don’t have bedrock right under the surface here in Oklahoma, so you drill down until you reach a point where it becomes too difficult to go any further. Then you set the foundation,” Muller said.

Construction continued throughout the summer. Crews cleared the old high-water crossing bridge debris away before stabilizing and adjusting the creek channel. Concrete and foundational materials were sourced largely from the CPN-owned batch plant, providing some cost savings for the Tribe.

Four cranes from U.S. Steel set the prefabricated truss bridge superstructure into place in the fall before the crew continued on to the curbs, street and bridge surface finishing work. More than 1,200 pieces of rebar hold it into place along with hundreds of tons of concrete. The steel infrastructure will last well into the future, covered with a thin film of rust made to weather out potential imperfections.

“It’s a newer kind of finishing that allows you to save on maintenance down the line,” Muller said. “There’s no need to paint it, sand blast it or anything. It’s basically self-repairing.”

Opened during the ribbon cutting on Dec. 6, the new bridge received a rating for up to 100 tons, providing stability to one of the Nation’s busiest enterprises. A fully loaded semi-truck typically weighs 40 tons.

“There would have to be about 3 feet of standing water in the fields and parking lot by the bridge as it now stands for it to be flooded again,” Muller said.

Just a few hundred feet upstream, the Nation completed another bridge crossing Deer Creek near the Pottawatomie County Rural Water District 3 pumping station, giving cars numerous options to enter and egress the Grand complex.

As for the bridge planned for Harrison and Hardesty roads near Iron Horse Industrial Park, Muller noted its instillation will begin soon. Travelers along Hardesty will notice the bridge’s steel infrastructure is currently sitting on the side of the road.

“We’ve been given the directions from Tribal leadership to help improve our community’s roads, and that’s what we are always looking to do,” Muller said.