By Angela Musallam

COLOMA (CBS13) — Boaters are riled up after high waters washed part of the construction supports off a new bridge in Coloma.

The bridge is part of a two-year project by Caltrans and is just off of Highway 49.

While Caltrans says wood is the only material that fell into the American River, some members of the rafting community say they don’t believe that’s the case.

“I’m pretty shocked, I could not believe that something like this could take place,” said Arnie Chandola.

He snapped photos of the American River Friday, after high-water swept through the bottom of the new bridge, knocking out some of its construction supports.

“I saw erosion channels running through all the construction material, there was rebar, boxes of metal,” Chandola added.

Chandola, who owns a whitewater rafting company in Coloma, says he believes metal rebar got washed into the river, and he’s concerned.

“When inner-tubers go in the river their feet are dangling, they’ve got kids in the inner tube, they’re swimming around, they’re spending a lot of time in the water,” he said.

“There were two pieces of timber from the falsework that did fall off into the river, that’s basically all we have been able to find out,” said Steve Nelson, a spokesman for Caltrans.

Falsework is a temporary wooden structure that’s used as a support during a project. Nelson says part of the falsework on the bridge shifted and collapsed Thursday, but he says construction crews were prepared to face the high water.

“They took precautions for that, they moved material from underneath the bridge up to higher ground,” added Nelson.

Nelson says crews didn’t find any metal in the river, but he says that could change when water levels recede.
For now, the agency is warning the public to stay out of the area.

“We are telling rafters not to go under the bridge, and we have flaggers to warn people to get off the bridge,” he added.

Chandola is staying away, and so are his clients.

“Tourism is our No. 1 revenue generator; to have something like this happen, it’s not good.”

Caltrans says the bridge is stable, and there’s no imminent threat the public. Construction on the bridge should resume by the end of the week.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife also weighed in, confirming there’s no threat to fish in the river.


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