Bridges may be a lifeline for reconnecting Fort Berthold communities separated by the Garrison Dam and Lake Sakakawea after 65 years. Not only can they provide better access to vital services (jobs, education, health care), they will help reduce travel time, and provide safer travel alternatives across Fort Berthold.

Bridge Plan

What is a Bridge Plan?

A bridge plan determines the feasibility, costs, risks, and benefits of building bridges such as the Charging Eagle Bay and/or Elbowoods Bridges over strategic points of Lake Sakakawea.

With the construction of the Garrison Dam and Lake Sakakawea in 1956, one-sixth of the Fort Berthold area was flooded (152,360 acres), and 70% of our road and bridge infrastructure was permanently lost. This displaced our families, destroyed sacred sites, ruined the best farmland, flooded valuable natural resources, destroyed the economy, and isolated communities that had previously been connected. The Charging Eagle Bay and Elbowoods bridges would help reconnect our communities, as well as create more viable corridors for trucking, recreation, and commercial travel.

In the early ’70’s, the Army Corps of Engineers conducted an environmental assessment (see document below) for the construction of the Charging Eagle Bay Bridge. At the time, the proposed bridge project was to span 4,500 feet across the Little Missouri River arm of Lake Sakakawea and connect State Highway 22 (near Mandaree) with State Highway 8 (near Twin Buttes). By conducting a feasibility study for the Charging Eagle Bay and Elbowoods bridge development, we can best understand the costs, benefits and investment required to reconnect our communities.


Why is Bridge Planning Important?

Access to Vital Services.

In conjunction with public transit, bridges are important for providing Fort Berthold residents access to essential services such as work, education, and health care. This also includes the ability for emergency first responders (ambulance, fire trucks or police) to reach remote and isolated areas quicker.

Reduce Travel Time.

The Charging Eagle Bay bridge would reduce the distance between Mandaree and Twin Buttes to only 22 miles (from 63 miles) and eliminate the need to drive off of Fort Berthold boundaries. The Elbowoods Bridge would reconnect the heart of Fort Berthold through East-West travel and reduce the Twin Buttes and White Shield journey to 20 miles (currently 103 miles that takes two hours in ideal traffic conditions).

Connect the Community.

The proposed bridges would help reconnect communities that were split 65 years ago by the construction of the Garrison Dam and Lake Sakakawea. Not only would this strengthen community ties between segments, it would help stimulate the economy by creating more viable corridors for commercial travel, trucking, and recreation.

Where do we come from?

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Three Affiliated Tribes had no need for bridges. We used the Missouri River for transportation, hunting, trading, as our main water source, and to cultivate our crops. Tribes from across the Great Plains traveled large distances to trade agricultural products and goods along the river with us. We occupied great distances along the Missouri, from Cannonball to Yellowstone (with other Tribes including the Crow), but our largest fortified villages prospered along the Heart River. In 1888, many communities moved away from Like-a-Fishhook village and settled 20 miles upriver in Elbowoods.1 Prior to the construction of the Garrison Dam, the old Elbowoods bridge  (constructed in 1934) crossed the Missouri at old Highway 8, near what is now Twin Buttes. In 1955, it was moved to a new location due to the construction of the Garrison Dam and subsequent creation of Lake Sakakawea. A new Four Bears Bridge was constructed in 2005.2 With the construction of the Garrison Dam and Lake Sakakawea in 1956, one-sixth of the Fort Berthold land area was flooded (152,360 acres including 94% of our best farmland), and our bridge (as well as 70% of our road infrastructure) was permanently lost. The flooding of our river displaced our families, destroyed sacred sites, ruined the best farmland, flooded valuable natural resources, destroyed the economy, and isolated communities that had previously been connected.

Where are we today?

Lake Sakakawea is the third largest man-made lake in the US (largest in North Dakota). Because of this physical barrier, the only available crossing points to reach all segments are at Four Bears Bridge (west of New Town) or 20 miles east of Fort Berthold’s boundaries (Highway 83) near Coleharbor. Today, to get from White Shield to Twin Buttes requires commuters to drive 103 miles, yet a bridge crossing at Old Highway 8 would reduce this distance to 20 miles. Similarly, to get from Mandaree to Twin Buttes is a 63 mile drive (22 miles with ferry service). Currently, a study is being conducted to determine the costs, benefits, risks, and feasibility of constructing one or both of these bridges on Fort Berthold. For this feasibility study, FIGG (responsible for designing and managing the construction of Four Bears Bridge) partnered with CH2M, providing Fort Berthold nationally and internationally recognized experts in all project aspects. The FIGG/CH2M Alliance will work directly for MHA Nation within a co-project management structure that will allow them to dedicate their highest-level key personnel to most efficiently deliver the best quality study. To take this ambitious project from conception to completion, a suite of environmental, cultural, social, and engineering elements must be carefully analyzed. Constructing one or more new bridges on Fort Berthold will require significant funding and investment, and the decision to build or not build will impact members of the Fort Berthold community for generations. This feasibility study will provide opportunities for public and stakeholder comment, analysis, data, and information needed to assist the public and leadership in making that decision. The study will follow a holistic approach that addresses tribal needs, economic and non-economic criteria, public involvement, environmental concerns, community connections, and traditional use in addition to bridge and roadway costs. Learn more at


Where are we going?

The success of the Fort Berthold Comprehensive Regional Transportation Plan is dependent on community engagement, strong leadership, clear research and analysis, and a clear strategic vision. The bridge feasibility study will be completed in September 2018. There will a series of public meetings in all of the segments starting in May, and a presentation to Tribal council in August. During the planning process, there will be a series of public meetings designed to provide information, address areas of concern, risk, cost, necessity for further research, and a create basis for making future decisions. There may not be a unanimous opinion among the Fort Berthold community about specific areas, but with good participation and engagement, there will be areas of consensus. This consensus will be the basis for a long-term commitment of resources to make Fort Berthold a safe, prosperous, and culturally rich place to raise a family, have a business, and secure our future.

What do you think about the bridge feasibility study? What is your vision for improving connectivity for our communities for generations to come? How can we plan for our future in a way that aligns with our cultural, spiritual and environmental values while ensuring a strong economy, jobs, health and education for our communities? How can we engage the Tribal community (both off and on reservation), our youth, elders, spiritual leaders, veterans, businesses, schools, programs, neighbors as well as other stakeholders including State, Federal and County governments in a way that ensures a brighter future for our next generations? We want to hear from you!

How many miles do you have to travel to get from Mandaree to Twin Buttes currently?

How many miles would would you have to travel from Mandaree to Twin Buttes with the proposed Charging Eagle Bay bridge?

How many miles do you have to travel to get from White Shield to Twin Buttes currently?

How many miles would would you have to travel to get from White Shield to Twin Buttes with the proposed Elbowoods bridge?

How many years have our communities been isolated from each other due to the completion of the Garrison Dam?

Source: Google Earth

Charging Eagle Bay Bridge Environmental Statement (early 1970's)

This document was created in the 1970’s by the Army Corps of Engineers and provides an in-depth look at the environmental impacts of the proposed Charging Eagle Bay Bridge.

Proposed Elbowoods Bridge Site

Proposed Charging Eagle Bay Bridge Site

What would YOU like to see addressed in the Bridge Plan?

Enter your full name, a valid email address, and a detailed message in the forms just below to tell us what YOU would like to see in the Bridge Plan. What else would you like to know about it? We also want your stories and perspectives on the questions framing this project; How did we end up with the bridge infrastructure that we currently have? Where is it today? Where do we want it to be in 20 years?

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