P.C. council approves additional $445,000 for sub-riparian water lines

The Flood of ’95 was a watershed moment in more than one way for Pincher Creek. The flood sits deep in the cultural memory of the town, and signs of the event are visible in reinforced banks and on the literal signs posted along the creek walking path that provide information about the disaster.

One particular piece of evidence remaining from the flood, nearly 30 years later, is erosion in the creek bed near the Pincher Creek Agricultural Society grounds. The flood in 1995, along with subsequent flooding events, has exposed two water lines that are critical to the town’s water infrastructure.

One water line is an intake pipe that pumps raw creek water to the water treatment plant where it is then treated for consumption; the other line carries potable water to the town’s downtown core.

Town council approved a total of $1.6 million to replace the water lines as part of the 2021 and 2022 capital budgets, with help from a $730,000 grant through the Alberta Community Resiliency Program. The project involves replacing the existing lines with 12-inch pipes installed eight metres below the creek.

Although the project was tendered this past June, feedback from the contractor and higher-than-expected bids — resulting, in part, from pipe costs increasing by 40 per cent over the last two years — led to town administration cancelling and reassessing the project.

Alexa Levair, manager of operations and infrastructure, provided an update on the revised project during council’s Sept. 12 regular meeting.

Part of the revisions included increasing the time frame for the project to be completed. Originally, the town wanted to have excavation completed during the last two weeks of August in order to align with an unrestricted regulatory window established by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Adjusting the parameters led to an expected cost $600,000 less than what was originally quoted by contractors back in June.

The project again went to tender, with a committee deciding to award the contract to UG Excavating Ltd. Although the lowest bid, replacing the lines will still exceed the original $1.6 million approved in the capital budgets by $445,000 and needed council’s approval before proceeding.

Part of the increased cost, said Levair, was the DFO’s requirement that the pipes go below bedrock to ensure the drilling fluid (also known as drilling mud) would not seep into the creek during drilling.

Drilling mud is a chemical compound that provides pressure in the hole to stop fluids or gases from entering while drilling, as well as keeping the drill bit clean and cool and helping carry out drill cuttings.

The nature of the creek bed erosion and the importance of the two lines to the town’s water system, Levair continued, made replacing the lines a top priority for the operations department.

“At this point in time, our opinion from operations is we would rather see this project go forward, and sacrifice other projects that maybe we were hoping to do next year, because this is one of those projects that the longer you wait the more at risk you are,” she said.

“It will not take much to erode the creek bed more and blow those lines out,” Levair added. “If we have a flooding event and these lines go out, we are in for a world of trouble because that is a major critical line that is servicing our entire downtown core.”

Despite breaching the $2-million mark, the town has other budgeting options to absorb the increased cost, including money left over from the recent twinning of the sanitary force main. Not only did the project come under budget due to the town not needing all the money set aside for contingency, but part of a provincial grant still remained — though administration needed to check if the grant could transfer over to the water line replacement project.

Council ultimately approved the additional $445,000, which will be funded through the town’s water line replacement reserve.

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze