Elk Springs water development nears completion
After nearly six months of construction, one of the most technically challenging spring developments in the history of the state is complete. North Emery Water Users has completed the development of Elk Springs on East Mountain. This spring, which can deliver more than 400 gallons per minute into the system, is an important component in ensuring the district will have adequate water supplies for future development.
The spring was difficult to develop because the source lies at the top of a series of ledges on the northeast end of East Mountain. These cliffs prevented previous attempts at developing the spring from progressing. In total, the ledges fall approximately 900 feet from the top of the mountain to Meetinghouse Canyon below. In the past, the district contemplated using steel pipe and hanging it from the ledges. This simply was not a feasible solution due to freezing and environmental concerns. As a result, a new way of traversing the ledges was required.
Energy West Mining provided the answer. They frequently contract with a drilling company named REI to do coal exploration. REI's drilling technology allows them to drill in any direction and to hit very precise targets. The district retained Jones and DeMille Engineering to engineer and manage the project and the decision was made to proceed.
Funding was provided by the Community Impact Board with a combination loan and grant to the district. In total, the funding package was just over $1.3 million.Energy West assisted by providing substantial support and technical services to the project.
In August 2008, the bids were let and Nielson Construction was awarded the 4.7 mile pipeline and spring development contract and REI was given the opportunity to drill and pull a six inch pipeline through the ledges.
The drilling began in late October, and it was hoped they could be complete by mid December. The rig was set on a pad at the bottom of the canyon where it could be serviced the easiest. The target they were shooting for on the top of the mountain was 900 feet up in elevation and 2,300 feet to the west. In order to meet the requirements of the forest service, the target had to be very exact. They had to hit within about a 15 foot location on the top of the mountain.
Finally in late December the bit came through the top of the mountain just above the original target. The initial bit was only a two inch bit so a back reaming bit had to be attached to make the first of three passes to enlarge the hole to nine inches.
The first two progressive reamings went well and were completed in a few weeks. The final reaming to enlarge the hole from 7.5 inches to nine inches ran into problems when the bit became trapped in a crack some 200 feet under the surface. For several weeks, various means were tried to free the bit, but eventually, the district had to make a decision to reduce the size of the pipe to be installed in the hole from six inches down to five inches. The bit was retrieved and REI pulled a five inch pipe through the hole.
Nielson Construction worked all winter with REI to keep the roads open and to provide support to the drilling project. In addition, their pipeline project was extremely challenging. They had to fit the pipeline between existing facilities from XTO's natural gas system. In addition, this area is extremely rocky. Many rocks larger than full size pickup trucks had to be moved or broken up to dig the pipeline. On the top of the mountain, Nielson's had to work within a narrow and steep right of way to minimize environmental impacts. The actual spring development had to be developed in an environmentally friendly way to accommodate the private landowners that own the property the spring is located on.
With the pipeline installed and the directional drilling complete, North Emery is currently working with Nielson's and Jones and DeMille to add the water to the district's supplies. As soon as the Division of Drinking Water approves the project, it will be delivered to the water treatment plant. The peak use of water within the system occurs between April and June, so the completion of the project is very timely for the district's customers.