A million-dollar miscalculation on the part of Federal Highway Bridge Replacement Rehabilitation engineers nearly cost the county $80,000.

Engineers apparently miscalculated the cost of replacing the Deer Creek Bridge on the Minam Road and the original estimate of $795,000 proved to be about a million dollars short.

But that amount was miraculously offset by a refund to the county on another bridgeproject — the replacement of the Hershell Bridge up Lostine Canyon, which was completed in 2017.

Here’s how it exchange went.

The Minam bridge replacement was estimated to cost $795,000 and Wallowa Country was required to pay 10.27 percent of that bid, which they did.

But federal engineers appear to have based their figures on an assumption that footings on the south side of the bridge were concrete cast as were the footings on the north side, said Commissioner Susan Roberts.

They were wrong.

“The footings on the south side were set on a big old granite rock,” Roberts said. “So, when they did this project, they misjudged the bridge costs and it went from $795,000 to $1.8 million. We argued that we shouldn’t have to pay that difference ... but they didn’t agree.”

Commissioners were informed the county owed another $80,000.

Fortunately, the Hershell Bridge project came in under cost and once that project was completed, Wallowa County was informed they would get a refund of nearly $70,000.

In the end, the feds took that refund and applied it to the $80,000 overage on the Deer Creek Bridge replacement.

“We ended up owing $10,000,” said Roberts. “It’s a lot better than owing $80,000, but not as good as getting a $70,000 refund.”

The century-old Deer Creek Bridge was donated to the Nez Perce Tribe and currently carries pedestrians above the flood plain east of the Wallowa River at the Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland site.

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