The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated 1,200 miles of rivers and streams in Georgia, Florida and Alabama as critical habitats for seven federally protected mussel species. Jacks River lies in part of this designated area and is the home to one of these endangered mussels, known as the Shinyrayed Pocketbook.
The original bridge over Jacks River was brought to Murray County in 1935. Prior to relocation, it had been in service since the early 1900’s on US Route 411.
A century later, the USDA Forest Service found this structure was no longer capable of supporting vehicular traffic. With loss of habitat as the biggest threat to mussel populations, it was critical that replacement of this structure have minimal impact on the waterway. A Capstone truss bridge was chosen to span the river, in part because it could be shipped in smaller modular pieces. The bridge was assembled next to the site and launched over a large platform, having very little impact on the surrounding environment and providing a clear span across the river.
Scientists have said the mussel population has declined drastically over the past three decades because they can’t tolerate mass changes in water quality from pollution and soil erosion. Though the Endangered Species Act protects some animals from hunters and other hazards, the biggest threat to mussels has been and remains the loss of habitat.