Old Bay Bridge span pillar implosion delayed

The much anticipated implosion of the mostly submerged main pillar of the old eastern Bay Bridge span has been delayed a week from next Saturday's planned event. But it's a delay that can't go on too long.

Everything was ready for next Saturday's implosion, but the plastic wrapping around the explosive charges was not strong enough to avoid ripping as the charges are physically shoved into their final positions.

New charges are already being prepared for Saturday, November 14th.   

Last Saturday, Caltrans, its contractors, consultants and numerous environmental agencies conducted a real, but small scale test on what is now scheduled to take place on the 14th.

A wall of compressed air bubbles will help muffle and lessen the shock of the implosion of the main pier that held up the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge. 600 strategically placed implosive charges, 25 to 35 pounds each, will take just six seconds to bring the massive, five-story underwater structure down.

A wide range of officials decided that the alternative -- four years of mechanical pounding to do the same thing --  would be far harsher on the environment.

"They weighed the alternatives and decided that the implosion was the better of the two alternatives. It is not perfect. Species will be killed," said Larry Goldzband of the Bay Conservation & Development Commission.

"As you know, the Bay Area is ground zero for environmental protection, not only in the U.S. but in the world," added the Bay Bridge Project's Demolition Environmental Manager Stefan Galvez.
The November time frame for the implosion proves to be critical.

"In November, there will be no salmon runs. In November, the herring aren't around and nesting birds are few and far between," said Goldzband.

Active deterrent devices will scare birds away from the blast zone. Passive noise devices will ward off sea mammals such as seals, sea lions, dolphins or whales.

"These are devices that are put into the water to emit a sound that's more annoying than anything to the marine mammals, to try to keep them out of the area," added Melinda Schgulze, an environmental consultant. 

But if any show up, the implosion will be delayed.

"You avoid things as much as you can. But if you can't avoid environmental costs, then you minimize and mitigate the damage," said Goldzband.

If successful, the many other remaining smaller piers still standing could go the same way. 

"We want to prove to everybody that this is a viable method for in water demolition," said Fritz Lausier, the projects demolition contractor.

If there are any more delays, the following Sunday could also be an alternative implosion date.