The Native Village of Eyak is working to secure funding for a major bridge repair to a Cordova road.

The state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities closed a portion of the Copper River Highway in 2011 when erosion took out Bridge 339, also known locally as the 36-mile bridge.

The Copper River Highway is a 50-mile road that leads to Child’s Glacier and the Million Dollar Bridge, a bridge built in the early 1900s to connect Kennicott to Cordova to haul copper ore. Both were popular tourist attractions before the road washed out.

While DOTPF initially had plans to repair the bridge, it later closed the road indefinitely due to lack of funding.

Kerin Kramer, the Native Village of Eyak's executive director, said the tribal government is applying for a federal Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grant.

Kramer said there is damage to ice breakers that protect the Million Dollar Bridge from icebergs from the Miles Glacier upriver. Repairing the 36-mile bridge is the only way to get equipment in to fix the ice breakers.

The Copper Highway's washed-out Bridge 339 near Cordova, also known locally as the 36-mile bridge. (Credit: Heather Hintze/KTVA)

"An iceberg, if it was at the right trajectory, could hit the bridge -- and if it does that too many times the bridge will start to fail,” Kramer said.

She said a total bridge failure could have catastrophic impacts to the Copper River, which is home to one of the state's most lucrative salmon runs.

“The Copper River has a lot of subsistence significance to the tribe and if the bridge were to fail or go down in the river, that would affect the Copper River red and king runs, navigation through there and the water quality flowing down,” Kramer explained.

The Native Village of Eyak is still trying to get an updated cost estimate for repairing the road and bridge.

The Native Village of Eyak is still trying to get an updated cost estimate for repairing the road and bridge.

Caitlin Frye, DOTPF’s northern region information officer, said the department’s last cost analysis was in 2014 but the river has changed drastically since then.

She said engineers estimate the bridge alone would cost between $50 million and $100 million.

“There are other issues beyond the bridge like the road itself, past the bridge,” Frye said.

The Copper River Highway beyond the washout has not been maintained since the road was closed.

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