It’s the calm before the storm.
Surveys are nearly updated, and the land acquisition process is close to ramping up, in regards to the City of Cullman’s Duck River dam project. After that, officials hope construction can begin in the summer of 2011.
The approximately $70 million water source project encompasses the construction of a 640-acre lake and a six-mile pipeline with a 32-million-gallon-per-day capacity, similar to the area’s sole water source Lake Catoma. The new reservoir will be located east of lake Catoma and north of Alabama Highway 278.
Approximately 65 percent of the title searches on affected property have already been completed, and a substantial amount of land surveys have also been done. Officials hope land acquisition can be finished around June 2011.
“The survey crews are getting really close now,” Susan Eller, with the Cullman Economic Development Agency (CEDA), said of the update process.
Before land acquisition begins in the coming months, project liaison Dale Greer recommended city officials host a public question and answer meeting for residents in the watershed.
“We need to set that up with different booths, so folks can come and ask whatever questions they may have,” he said. “Something similar to what we did several years ago out at Holly Pond High School [before the project was stalled by environmental lawsuits that have since been resolved].”
Steve Newton, with engineering firm CH2M Hill, went over the basics of the construction plan at a utilities board meeting earlier this week, which was attended by the new Cullman County Commission line-up.
“First off, welcome to the table, it’s good to have you on board,” Newton said.
The commission signed a new water purchase contract with the city in mid-November through the length of the proposed bond for Duck River, ending a holdout spurred by two former commissioners voted out earlier this month in the general election.
New associate commissioners Darrell Hicks and Stanley Yarbrough have since joined commission chairman James Graves in support of the project.
“I’m pleased and glad to see things going,” Hicks said.
Construction of the dam will be handled in three phases, which will encompass the construction of a 12-foot tunnel cut into the rock in the west abutment area, and a 1,925-foot-long and 135-foot-high rock fill dam.
“The plan is broken into phases, which were put together in 1999 by the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers, and they’re updating that now,” Newton said. “As soon as we can get it back from them, and let our people start working on it, we’ll get it bid out so work can begin.”
Phase I will include the construction of a water diversion tunnel, clearing and grubbing of the site, dam foundation preparation and borrow site assessment.
Phase II will be the main construction phase, where the spillway, dam and water intake structure is built.
The pipeline from the water intake structure to the Cullman Water Treatment Plant will be crafted during Phase III.
Newton said his firm, which the city recently named engineer of record on the project, is also eyeing some tweaks to the overall plan.
“We don’t want to try and reinvent the wheel, but we’re going to try and make some changes to get costs down, considering how technology has changed over the years,” he said.
Proposed cost savings and functional enhancements include using a circular tunnel as opposed to a “horseshoe” design, using roller compacted concrete to fill the dam instead of rock, and straighter alignment of the water main from the pump station to the water treatment plant.
The estimated completion date for the project is summer 2015, and Newton said it should only take a handful of months for the dam to fill if rainfall holds steady after completion.
“We need to do all we can to hit that summer bid date [for construction], because of the status of the economy,” he said. “Because right now, there are some hungry contractors out there.”
With construction growing closer, a command structure has also been written, to show who will report to which group during the construction process. Newton and the staff at CEDA will report to the utilities board, while CH2M Hill construction manager Tom Harwell will report to Newton. The resident inspector and CH2M Hill design team will then report to Newton.
“I like this a lot, and I really think it’ll work out well,” Cullman city council president Garlan Gudger, Jr. said of the communication plan.
* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.
Surveys under way; land acquisition next; construction in summer 2011
It’s the calm before the storm.
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