Bridges could be a lifeline for reconnecting Fort Berthold communities separated by the Garrison Dam and Lake Sakakawea, providing better access to vital services and economic and non-economic benefits, reducing travel time, and providing safer travel alternatives across Fort Berthold. MHA Nation has recently selected the FIGG/CH2M Alliance to prepare a bridge feasibility study and corridor plan to identify possible locations and bridge options to reconnect Fort Berthold communities. Specifically, the feasibility study will consider possible bridge and connecting road locations at Charging Eagle Bay and a Missouri River crossing in the area of Elbowoods.

What is the Fort Berthold Bridge Plan?

With the construction of the Garrison Dam and Lake Sakakawea in 1956, one-sixth of the Fort Berthold area was flooded, and the communities on the reservation became geographically separated. While this created a great recreational resource, the dam had a devastating impact on the social, cultural, and economic structure of the Three Affiliated Tribes. Bridges and roads are one means of reconnecting those communities. 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.

Who is the FIGG/CH2M Alliance?

Members of the Fort Berthold community may already be familiar with the people from FIGG, who were responsible for designing and managing the Four Bears Bridge. For this feasibility study, FIGG has partnered with CH2M, providing Fort Berthold nationally and internationally recognized experts in all project aspects from transportation and infrastructure studies to public involvement, environmental impact analysis, economic studies, and financing evaluation. The FIGG/CH2M Alliance will work directly for MHA Nation with a co-project management structure that will allow them to dedicate their highest-level key personnel to most efficiently deliver the best quality study.

The FIGG/CH2M Alliance has expertise in Lake Sakakawea Bridge Studies and long-span bridge design, as well as rural roadway design, feasibility studies, and corridor planning. Equally important, the team understands that evaluating the social and cultural impact on MHA Nation is more important than simple economics at this stage. This Alliance brings together world-class bridge engineers, Native American-owned civil engineering professionals, experts in public involvement and community engagement, and economic, traffic, and environmental analysts. Additionally, CH2M has been ranked the #1 environmental firm by Engineering News Record for eight consecutive years.

Russ Call (FIGG) and Kurt Wald (CH2M) will be co-project managers. Russ Call’s experience includes delivering the Four Bears Bridge. He brings an understanding of culture, place, and relationship to the team. Kurt Wald has 18 years of multidisciplinary project team management, and has managed similar studies in the past. The FIGG/CH2M Alliance also includes a number of subcontractors that bring additional experience and expertise to the project. They are Akana, a Native-owned, multidisciplinary consulting firm; Ayres Associates, experts in bridge hydraulics and scour evaluation; Braun Intertec, an engineering firm that also worked on the Four Bears Bridge; KLJ, another engineering firm with experience working with Native American tribes across the upper Great Plains; and White Shield, Inc., a Native-owned firm that specializes in providing value-driven solutions to a variety of engineering and construction projects in the natural and built environment throughout the Pacific Northwest.

How can I participate?

A key goal of the feasibility study is an outreach effort centered on the needs and concerns of the Fort Berthold residents. Once the various experts on the Bridge Team have assessed and analyzed bridge sites, corridor infrastructure needs, social and environmental concerns, economic issues, and initial cost estimates, which will in itself require communicating with the community, they will begin a committed effort to support public participation. This will be achieved through the following: sharing project information and findings to community residents and interested stakeholders through a variety of media, events, and platforms; encouraging active participation in the community area planning process; and soliciting and documenting feedback that may influence the Fort Berthold Bridge Feasibility Study.

Stay tuned for announcements of these events, as well as calls to participate and informational updates on the Fort Berthold Comprehensive Regional Plan website and social media!