Firm offers solution for river intake

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

A firm specializing in engineering and construction guidance presented on Monday what it believes to be the solution to Vandalia’s river intake problems.

But some of those on hand for the presentation feel that the city should consider some other, less-costly, options for the troublesome intake.

The city hired Gonzalez Companies in July, agreeing to pay the firm up to $22,500 to study the raw water intake on the Kaskaskia River, which has been largely unusable since its installation in the spring of 2005 because of sediment deposits.

Patrick Judge, a partner in the firm that has four offices serving the Midwest, said that the company formulated its recommendation after several site visits, talking with representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineerings and reviewing a report on the past, current and future flow of the river.

The recommendation of Gonzalez Companies includes:

• Installing a coffer dam around the intake structure and clearing the area of stones around and on top of the structure.

• Reconstructing a dike that was built after problems with the intake surfaced. The new dike, Judge said, would include much-larger rocks and the installation of sheet pilings.

• Using the proper size of riprap.

• Repositioning the intake at a slightly different angle.

• Raising the elevation of the intake.

“Some of the considerations are building the dike at the right angle, constructing it at the right height and having proper riprap,” Judge said during a work session held prior to Monday’s city council meeting.

“One of the main issues that you have to deal with is that the existing dike is gone,” he said. The flow of the river, Judge said, “scattered rock all over the place, some of it over the top of the structure.

“Not only do you have to build a dike, but you will also need to clean up what’s there now,” he said.

The company is currently recommending the use of 600-pound rocks, which it believes are large enough to withstand the forces of the river flow.

“It’s not an overly complicated concept,” Judge said.

“The general concept of the dike is to create a natural scour, to keep the intake as clear as possible.”

That doesn’t mean that the intake would be maintenance-free.

“There are always going to be maintenance issues. You will always have sediment issues,” he said.

Alderman Chad Feldpouch asked Judge several times who was to blame for the intake not working properly in the past. Judge declined to offer an opinion, but said HMG Engineers of Carlyle seemed to have the right idea.

“The original concept … does make sense,” he said. “But there’s got to be some tweaks to it.”

A preliminary estimate for the work, Judge said, is $400,000.

“I can’t guarantee that you’ll never have to deal with this again,” he said, talking about such factors as a shift in the flow of the river.

“If you want a guarantee, that $400,000 estimate goes out the window,” Judge said.

He told those attending the work session, “This is not the only option. There are more-sophisicated options, but they are much more expensive.”

Judge estimated that starting from scratch on the installation of a river intake would cost about $1.5 million-$2 million.

When the river is high, Judge said, “You will have sediment issues, but putting in heavier rocks to keep it (dike) from moving … means you’re not going to have rocks dumped into your intake structure.”

Judge said that in addition to engineering the project, it would provide direct oversight of the contractor. And, he said, it’s important to get the right type of contractor.

“The contractor is vital. You have got to make sure you’ve got the right people out on the river who know what they’re doing,” he said.

Several city officials told Judge that the city was required to hire the low bidder on the project initially because it had received grant funds for the work.

During the council meeting, Mayor Rick Gottman directed Alderman Larry Cable, chairman of the water and disposal plants committee, to discuss where to go from this point.

“I think a lot of deep discussion is needed, including how we would pay for it,” Gottman said.

Feldpouch was among those at the meeting expressing the belief that the city should consider “local resources,” including contractors, as a less-expensive avenue to resolve the situation.

Cable agreed that $400,000 is a lot to spend, “but if it would take care of it, it would be worth it.”

Feldpouch said he’s concerned that the city would pay out another $400,000 for the intake and still not have a solution.