ELIZABETHTOWN — New Russia's Otis Bridge might not get replaced anytime soon.Essex County is already facing a lawsuit filed by neighbors of the historic bridge to prevent its destruction, and now the State Department of Environmental Conservation has notified the county it has oversight on several issues concerning it.DEC Regional Permit Administrator Thomas W. Hall told county officials a Protection of Water permit is needed and the project may constitute a Type 1 action under the State Environmental Quality Review Act because the bridge has historic status.A Type 1 action would require a full environmental-impact study of the proposed bridge replacement, something that is normally a lengthy and expensive process.DEC has a public-fishing-rights easement on both sides of the Boquet River in the vicinity of the bridge, Hall said, and the Adirondack Park Agency may also have jurisdiction over the project.He said a pre-application meeting will be necessary to discuss "these and other areas of mutual interest."Meanwhile, the county has been presented with a 248-signature petition asking it to hold a public referendum on replacing both the Otis Bridge and the Lobdell Bridge nearby."We believe the replacement of these bridges is an unnecessary spending of taxpayers' money. No. 1 — should Otis Bridge be replaced with a 40-ton bridge? No. 2 — should Lobdell Bridge be replaced with a 40-ton bridge using county tax money?" the petition reads.It was presented to the Board of Supervisors by Margaret Bartley, who lives near the bridge. She and her husband, Harry Gough, filed an Article 78 lawsuit to stop its replacement.The county has already authorized spending up to $450,000 to replace the Otis Bridge, situated in Elizabethtown's New Russia hamlet off Route 9. Built in 1914, it serves a handful of seasonal camps and 800 acres of forestlands on the other side.Opponents of replacing the span have said the county, reacting to an Elizabethtown Town Council request, is replacing it just to facilitate logging.The current three-ton span won't support emergency vehicles, say supporters of the proposed replacement designed to hold 40 tons.The temporary injunction against the project expired last week, and a special Board of Supervisors meeting scheduled to vote on quick replacement was canceled when a quorum could not be obtained.County Attorney Daniel Manning III said he didn't oppose the injunction because no work was planned on the bridge replacement for months anyway."As a gesture of goodwill, I told their attorneys I would ask the Board of Supervisors not to do anything physically to the bridge, not move it or demolish it. That shows we're trying to work with people."Papers on the bridge lawsuit were due in Essex County State Supreme Court Friday, and a decision will be issued at a later date.
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