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Building a New Bridge Among Thousands of Bears in Katmai National Park & Preserve

Nov 20, 2019 | Engineering, News, Tourism

Katmai National Park & Preserve

KATMAI NATIONAL PARK—STG Incorporated recently completed the construction of a new bridge and walkway over the Brooks River in Katmai National Park and Preserve for the National Park Service (NPS). The project was commissioned to replace a floating bridge across the Brooks River, a centerpiece feature of the park, where the spawning Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon make their way back up to the headwaters as the bears congregate in high concentrations to fish and feast before the long winter. Due to the high concentration of bears in this area, visitors and Park employees would frequently experience long delays on the floating bridge due to ‘Bear Jams’ when bears would be near or on the bridge preventing anyone from crossing until the bears moved. The new elevated bridge and walkway would alleviate this congestion, allow wildlife to move freely down the river and under the new bridge while giving visitors an improved vantagepoint from above, lessen delays, and improve safety for both visitors and wildlife.

Building a bridge in this isolated location with immense environmental and wildlife complexities to plan around was successfully completed by STG, Incorporated. STG has a successful track record with “leave-no-trace” construction methods on projects and the work in Katmai required a heightened commitment to this initiative. The Katmai National Park and Preserve, located in an extremely remote area of southwest Alaska, is only accessible by floatplane or boat, making construction a particularly complex challenge. In addition, protecting the natural ecosystem is paramount within the park and extensive measures are taken to keep the renowned bears from associating humans with food, or as a threat to their cubs. These efforts were at the forefront of STG’s approach from the beginning of the project, in addition to many other sensitive environmental factors while holding the highest standards for the quality of the bridge.

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Katmai National Park & Preserve

STG’s project team had to take extra precautions with extensive planning and systems in place to make the project a success while maintaining the integrity of park rules and ensuring everyone’s safety. Everything from food storage restrictions, to taking bear safety courses to keeping a waste log were required prior to conducting work in the field. STG Project Manager for the bridge, Jordan Summers said  that “in addition to safety and respecting the sensitive environment, our team was committed to developing the highest quality solutions for our client and our team worked tirelessly to ensure the integrity of our craftsmanship throughout the project.”

Katmai National Park & Preserve

Great efforts were also made by STG to minimize the impact on the natural habitat during construction. Through specialized expertise in remote logistics, project management techniques in remote and environmentally sensitive environments, and craftsmanship, the STG team not only successfully completed this complex project, but contributed to one of the nation’s most protected lands enjoyed by visitors and webcam viewers, not to mention the most important beneficiaries—the resident bears. Due to the successful completion of this project in challenging circumstances, STG was recently awarded the Excellence in Construction for a Specialty Contractor from Alaska’s Associated General Contractors.

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