Above: An historic marker for Blenheim's covered bridge in 2008. Photo by Jimmy Emerson, via Flickr.
After years of wrangling, historic preservationists have won their fight to build a replica of Blenheim's Old Covered Bridge, which was washed out in Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, in the Schoharie County town of Blenheim, according to the Mountain Eagle and the Times Journal.
The replacement bridge will be a replica of the original bridge, which was once the longest open-span covered bridge in the world. Pieces of the old bridge were scattered throughout the Schoharie Valley during the flood, and for years afterwards fans of the bridge struggled to convince state and federal authorities of the need to rebuild it in some way.
On Sunday, Sept. 13, word finally came that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had approved a $5.8 million plan to rebuild the bridge.
Don Airey, the chair of the Blenheim Long Term Community Recovery Committee, is ecstatic, according to the Mountain Eagle:
"It will be a direct replica” said Airey, who learned the news late Sunday night. The recovered pieces of the original bridge, a national historic landmark, have been preserved under cover and will likely be used for some sort of memorialization. “I am very happy with FEMA,” said Airey, despite the lengthy process which required a couple of appeals to convince everyone the bridge is an asset. They changed its classification in the last appeal from a bridge to a pier, since the bridge did not actually span the entire Schoharie Creek.
The new bridge could be built as early as next year, Bill Cherry, the flood recovery coordinator for Schoharie County, told the Times Journal.
The replica bridge will be built 15 feet higher than the old bridge. That hopefully will protect the new span in future floods, Airey told the Mountain Eagle. “If the bridge is taken at 15 feet higher, we are all in trouble,” he said.