Barnard Construction Co. Inc.

Barnard Construction’s experience with many different facets of heavy civil construction is being put to good use during one of the company’s largest ongoing projects. The Bozeman, Mont.-based contractor’s work on the Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Redevelopment Project includes tunnel enlargement, deep shaft work, large-diameter pipeline placement, structural concrete, turbine/generator installation, and mechanical and electrical system replacement.

“A project like this is something that might come along once in a career, with so many different parts of civil work being used on one job,” Project Manager Gavin Tasker says. The falls are located in King County, Wash., which is about 30 miles east of Seattle on the Cascade Mountains’ western slope.

A Sound Project

The Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Operations consist of two power plants built more than 100 years ago. The site is owned and operated by Puget Sound Energy Inc. Barnard Construction is renovating both plants, one of which is thought to be one of the world’s first completely underground powerhouses, the company says.

Barnard completed the design/assist phase in 2009. Construction started in April 2010. Completion is expected in 2013.

Planned renovation to the underground, 11.98-megawatt Plant 1 includes replacing one of the plant’s five turbines and refurbishing the other four. Other work includes enlarging the plant’s 280-foot-deep shaft, replacing an elevator and other equipment, and realigning a nearby riverbank. The company is also demolishing support buildings located aboveground. A former carpentry shop on the site is being converted into a historical museum, Tasker explains.

Work on Plant 2 involves installing a new 12.5-megawatt turbine generator, building a new river intake, upsizing and relining a flow line tunnel, and constructing new bypass valve chambers and penstocks. 

Subcontractor Hydro Consulting and Maintenance Services Inc. of Spokane, Wash., is performing the new turbine installation and working on replacing mechanical components in the powerhouses, Tasker says. Additionally, Burke Electric of Bellevue, Wash. has been contracted under Barnard to handle all aspects of temporary and permanent power for the project.

Hydro Consulting, Burke Electric and several other subcontractors have been involved with the project since the design phase started in 2008. “Many of the subcontractors – including Hydro Consulting, Hayward Baker, Burke Electric and J Harper – have been a part of this for some time,” he adds. “Getting to build this is just the next step in the process. It was very exciting for us to get started.”

Site Challenges

Both power plants are located at the 270-foot-tall Snoqualmie Falls, one of Washington State’s most popular tourist attractions, averaging nearly 2 million visitors a year. A river flowing through the property is also a popular destination.

“We’re dealing with a lot of the public wanting to recreate by the river, and have pretty much had to have full-time security down there to make sure people aren’t blocking access,” Tasker says. “We don’t want to see anyone get hurt while we’re trucking a lot of heavy equipment and materials in and out of there.”

Barnard Construction and the site owners also have posted signs informing the public of work in the area. Internally, the company’s safety personnel are keeping an eye on any potential dangers on the site. “We have very competent people and experts in their fields keeping an eye out for the safety of our people and the safety of the public,” he adds.

The company has an extensive safety program in place, including  full-time safety educators; site-specific safety, health, injury and illness prevention programs; job site hazard analysis during all major work phases; and employee safety recognition and incentive programs.

“We believe that success in accident reduction lies in planning ahead,” the company says. “We make every effort to cultivate a positive safety attitude at every level.” Barnard completed 2010 without a single OSHA recordable or lost-time incident, including the challenging work at Snoqualmie Falls.

Company Growth

Barnard Construction was established by Tim Barnard in 1975 as a one-man operation. Since its founding, the company has grown into a multimillion-dollar heavy civil contractor with a number of affiliated companies including affiliations in Canada, Australia and Mexico.

“We’ve been around a lot of different facets of construction and are proud of the quality of our work,” Tasker says. “We have a full, competent staff with the right people to do the job.”

The company recently finished work on the Pit River License Implementation Project on the Pit River in Burney, Calif. There, a Barnard team installed an 8-foot-diameter pipe and new intake structures through three dams on the site in an effort to increase the 30-mile-long river’s flow. The project also included coring through existing concrete dams, replacing two bridges, and upgrading the surrounding watershed’s drainage system, the company says.

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