SOLDIER POND, Maine — Nothing says summer in Maine quite like a leap into a cool pond on a hot day.
But officials with the Maine Department of Transportation are warning residents against this popular seasonal pastime in the wake of current bridge work.
The MDOT is in the midst of a $350,000 scour mitigation project at the Soldier Pond Bridge that will change the depth of the water under the bridge in addition to modifying the pond’s topography.
“We are not so concerned with people jumping into the pond during the construction because they see we are working and have not been doing it,” Robert Watson, MDOT’s northern region manager, said Tuesday afternoon. “But after we are done it will be very dangerous to jump off that bridge.”
Bridge scour mitigation is necessary, Watson said, in areas where the action of flowing water around the bridge piers removes — or scours away — rocks and other materials from around those piers and weakens them.
“That natural removal of those materials over time is what makes areas like the one under the Soldier Pond Bridge great places to swim,” Watson said. “There are some nice, deep holes.”
But as part of the mitigation project crews are filling in those holes with gravel and large boulders.
“Next summer the space under the bridge may not look any different than it did this summer,” Watson said. “But where the water may have been 12 feet deep this summer may next year be only 7 feet deep, [and] those nice deep holes will be gone.”
Work began on the 63-year-old Soldier Pond Bridge last week and Watson said the crew should wrap things up by the middle of next month.
“The point of the project is to prolong the life of the bridge and preserving the safety of the driving public,” he said. “We are now also worried about the people who like to jump from the bridge into the pond [because] we want them to be safe, too.