Barnard Construction Co. Inc. – TVA Dam Projects

After four decades, Barnard Construction Co. Inc. thrives by applying a unique management approach to projects, Vice President Derek Tisdel says. “We put our best foot forward from the very beginning to the very end,” he declares. “Our management philosophy is having the same people who bid the job build the job.”

Barnard Construction has applied that approach to a series of dam projects for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) over the past year-and-a-half. The company is proud of its work on each. 

As the company has worked hard on these projects, it has developed a strong working relationship with TVA, which is a testament to Barnard Construction’s workers and their integrity. “What TVA is looking for is what we’re providing,” he says. 

Dam Good Work

To date, Barnard Construction has worked on eight recent TVA dam modification projects. This work has included projects at the Cherokee Dam in Jefferson, Tenn., the Douglas Dam in Dandridge, Tenn., and Fort Loudoun Dam in Lenore City, Tenn. All three were originally constructed on fast-tracked schedules in the early 1940s, to support the War Effort and energy advancement.

Although TVA wants to bring a nuclear reactor online at its Watts Bar facility in Spring City, Tenn., the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires that the dams be modified for probable maximum flood and correct seismic loadings. The authority ultimately wants to provide an additional 1,100 megawatts to its service area, Barnard Construction says.

To help TVA meet this goal, the project required installation of 84 anchors into the bedrock on the training wall, dam spillway and non-spilling sections of Cherokee Dam. This included 32 anchors in the non-overflow section, as well as 32 fifty-four-strand anchors, 152 to 235 feet long, in the vertical part of the dam. 

Barnard Construction also installed 18 each 54-strand anchors, 132 to 139 feet long, at 60-degree angles; four each 27-strand anchors that are 150 feet long; 34 each single-bar rock anchors that were installed at a 38-degree angles; and 20 each 54 strand anchors that varied from 95 to 205 feet. 

The contractor completed similar work at Douglas Dam, with the installation of 20 anchors through a non-overflow section of the dam. At Fort Loudoun, Barnard Construction implemented 27-strand post-tension anchors 150 deep through the dam’s neck. 

The company also modified, enlarged or removed the existing concrete floodwalls at all three dams, in order to make them taller and stouter. The new floodwalls feature 4,177 cubic yards of concrete and range from eight to 20 feet in height.

Project Pride

Project Manager Brian Krohmer also highlights the company’s work on Douglas Saddle Dam No. 1, adjacent to the Douglas Dam, which involved the installation of a seepage collection system for relief wells. “We installed piping in that whole system to collect the water generated from those wells,” he recalls.

Barnard Construction also built a zoned embankment to help weigh down the toe of the dam to resist uplift pressures. Krohmer is proud of the company’s ability to complete work efficiently under tight schedules.

With very little time to get started and completed, “We were working seven days a week and a double shift on a couple of the projects,” he recalls.

The company also encountered constant changes and adjustments that were made to keep everything moving forward. “Any time you’re drilling through dams, there are a lot of unknowns you have to adjust to quickly,” Krohmer says. “The whole team succeeded in that regard.”  

No Lost Time

Maintaining safety on the dam projects was critical to TVA, Krohmer says. Because TVA has a very robust safety culture, it had safety professionals at each of the sites, as did Barnard Construction. 

Each morning, the contractor also held a pre-job safety meeting, and often held safety award lunches. When the project team reached specific man-hour milestones without any accidents, it celebrated with a safety cookout. 

In the end, Barnard Construction worked all the jobs without a single recordable, reportable or lost-time accident. “We worked over 200,000 man-hours,” Krohmer says.

Chasing Challenges

Based in Bozeman, Mont., Barnard Construction specializes in multiple project types, including dams and reservoirs, sewers, oil and gas pipelines, hydropower, tunnels, electric transmission and environmental projects. That diversity, Krohmer notes, has set it apart in the industry. 

Much of the company’s success has been due to its pursuit of difficult and challenging projects that require different approaches. All are “quite unique in their own way,” he adds.

Barnard Construction also has the backing of a strong team, with people who put a lot of hard work and thought into everything. Those people also communicate well with each other, Tisdel adds. 

“We have one corporate office, so we’re not divided among regional offices,” he says. “When we’re bidding work, we’re bidding right here out of Bozeman.”

The company also features a structure with very little bureaucracy. Not many layers lie between the field and the chairman of the board, “so our communication is pretty seamless,” he adds.

Good Times

Now is a good time for Barnard Construction to be in business. The company has watched the market return to where it was prior to the recent recession, Tisdel says. 

Barnard Construction plans to continue working with TVA. After learning about the Authority and what it expects, “We are definitely going to pursue future work with them as one of their contractors,” Krohmer says.

Barnard Construction also will grow by expanding its area of work in Canada. “We’re building bigger projects and really growing into some different arenas,” he says.

These include the power transmission arena, where it has a large project in Southern California. “We’re also continuing on with long-term owner contract programs with the current clients we’ve worked with in the past,” Krohmer says.

A Quality Contractor

Barnard’s subcontractors played a key role in the TVA dam projects, including Nicholson Construction Co., a specialty geotechnical contractor that completed the drilling and installation of high-capacity anchors on the Cherokee and Douglas dams. This is one of the firm’s specialties, Nicholson Project Manager Dennis “Bud” Triplett says. 

“As a company, Nicholson has worked on more than 100 dams across the country,” said Bud Triplett. “Our team is highly experienced in all aspects of dam remediation, particularly the drilling, installation and tensioning of high-capacity anchors.” 

Nicholson coped with Barnard’s tight schedule on the dams. “[They] had a Dec. 15 milestone,” he recalls. “It was a rush to get it done to meet the TVA’s requirements. Those jobs finished on time and our portion of the work [was done by] early November.”

The contractor enjoyed working with Barnard. “They definitely have a good approach to working with us as a subcontractor to keep the project moving,” Triplett describes. “[They] take a partnering approach and work to help solve any issues and facilitate the construction.”

He also praises the team at Nicholson, which will soon celebrate its 60th anniversary. “The company has a lot of experienced people and good resources,” Triplett says. “We take a very detailed approach to the work, which is required with projects with high-capacity anchors.”

Nicholson notes that he has more projects ahead with Barnard, including work at the TVA Wilson Dam and Lock in Alabama. 

“We’re doing some minor upgrades on the lock and that facility,” he explains.

“There’s a lot of work coming out to increase the safety factor of dams in relation to the probable, maximum flood,” Triplett continues. “We are focused on this type of work and are looking forward to lending our expertise on these types of projects for dams across the country.” 

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