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Yakima County moves ahead with underwater bridge checks

YAKIMA - As part of a national mandate, Yakima County will conduct underwater inspections of its bridges this summer.

In action this past Tuesday, Yakima County commissioners authorized staff to negotiate contracts for the underwater checks.

Bridges in the county with columns or footings under water will be inspected to make sure river currents haven't compromised their stability.

Vern Redifer is the director of Yakima County's public services, and he says the national bridge inspection system requires periodic underwater inspections.

He says these inspections have to be contracted out because Yakima County doesn't have divers on staff to do the proper checks.

An underwater bridge inspection was the catalyst several years ago for work on the Donald Wapato Bridge. "It was discovered that some of the old footings were undermined," Redifer said. "We did some repairs as a result of that."

This year's inspections will likely be done this summer when water levels are at their lowest.

Redifer is a West Virginia native and grew up just 30 miles from the Silver Bridge that collapsed in 1967, killing dozens of people.

"That helped spawn the drive to do inspections on all bridges across the U.S.," says Redifer, who was a sixth grader at the time of the Silver Bridge collapse.

As public services director for Yakima County, Redifer is now responsible for bridge safety here.

"It's something that is important to do," he says of underwater bridge inspections. "You want to know if you have any challenges before you find out the bad way."

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