Discovery of bone fragment briefly delays Tenmile Bridge construction

ASOTIN COUNTY - The Tenmile Bridge has a been a sensitive subject for many in the community.

The construction of the project has proved to be an arduous process after cultural remains were found on the construction site in 2010, causing the bridge to remain unfinished for quite some time and a local resident to pursue a lawsuit against the county. And now the construction process may experience yet another setback following the discovery of what is believed to be a bone fragment.

"It appears that they found a possible bone fragment they don't know if it's human or animal," said Asotin County Public Works Department Project Manager Craig Miller.

Upon finding the fragment, the Inadvertent Discovery Plan, written out in the Memorandum of Agreement between multiple agencies that include Asotin County and the Nez Perce Tribe was put into action. They halted construction for a 100-yard radius around the finding, then called a coroner and an archaeologist from the Nez Perce Tribe to take a look at the area.

"So now they will not work there for awhile until they determine is any other bone fragments are there," said Miller.

Late this summer, the entities involved all sat down and were able to write up the Memorandum of Agreement, which revised the construction plans and provided a compensation agreement for the Nez Perce Tribe. Miller said they're taking extra care to make the project fits it's natural surroundings as much as possible, per the agreement with the Tribe.

"I guess I'd say the history of this land means a lot to the Nez Perce Tribe that they wanted it to be treated to the best," said Miller.

Just as Miller was explaining the importance of the construction site, it got quiet because the tractors were all shut off. We raced over to the archaeologists who're monitoring the site.

"They're with the Nez Perce tribe and what they're doing is they are monitoring all of the earth work and the excavation activities," said Miller.

That's when the two workers said they found what could be a bone fragment. A tribal monitor who was on scene believes the remains are human, however construction will move forward. The Asotin County Sheriff's Department and the Nez Perce Tribal archaeologist gave their approval.