- Associated Press - Sunday, October 25, 2015

NEW TOWN, N.D. (AP) - Ed Lone Fight crosses the Four Bears Bridge, a structure spanning Lake Sakakawea west of New Town, quite often.

“It’s a good bridge,” said Lone Fight, a former chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes who now lives in New Town.

The modern Four Bears Bridge has been open to traffic for 10 years, the Minot Daily News reported. It was opened to traffic in September 2005 and a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony was held Oct. 3, 2005.

Lone Fight, who was chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara from 1986 to 1990, said, “We talked about it (a new bridge) but at that time it was just compensation.”

He said just compensation was the centerpiece of his administration. Just compensation refers to money sought by the tribes from the federal government to compensate them for land taken away for the construction of the Garrison Dam in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Lone Fight, originally from Mandaree, is back in his homeland, the Fort Berthold Reservation, after retiring as a Bureau of Indian Affairs superintendent. He worked with the BIA in areas including Montana and Wyoming. He moved to New Town three weeks ago.

Some years later after his administration, construction started on the newest Four Bears Bridge, paid for with state and federal funds.

Today, traffic crossing the bridge over Lake Sakakawea has nearly doubled since the bridge opened in 2005.

Jamie Olson, a spokeswoman for the North Dakota Department of Transportation in Bismarck, said in 2005, about 5,200 vehicles per day crossed the bridge. In 2014, she said the count was 9,800 vehicles per day.

As for inspections of the bridge, Olson said, “The Four Bears Bridge, like all our bridges, are inspected every 24 months.”

The former Four Bears Bridge, a two-lane structure, was considered functionally obsolete. It was narrow and could not accommodate present-day traffic.

Construction on the existing bridge took more than two years to complete. It has wider and safer lanes, something quite necessary now due to the extensive oil development going on in western North Dakota.

Spanning about 4,500 feet across Lake Sakakawea, the Four Bears Bridge contract was the single largest bridge contract awarded by the state Department of Transportation. Financed with state and federal funds, the $55.4 million contract went to Fru-Con Construction, a bridge-building company of Missouri.

When it was completed, the old bridge, located about 100 feet south of the new bridge, was demolished.

The new bridge is the third bridge carrying the name Four Bears Bridge. The former bridge carried that name as well as the first bridge that was built downstream near the community of Elbowoods. The middle structure of the first bridge was moved from Elbowoods, a community now covered by Lake Sakakawea, and served as part of the second Four Bears Bridge for many years.


Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com

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